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Posts Tagged ‘Society’

I think of “Against the Wind” as a song about aging and how life’s burdens become heavier as we get older. Bob Seger told an interviewer it’s about “trying to move ahead, keeping your sanity and integrity at the same time.” Close enough.

Seger ran cross-country in high school, so the running metaphor came naturally. We also know why he calls the queen of his nights “Janey”: His girlfriend from 1972 until 1983 was Jane Dinsdale.

Against the Wind

By Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, 1980
Written by Bob Seger

It seems like yesterday,
But it was long ago.
Janey was lovely, she was the queen of my nights,
There in the darkness with the radio playing low, and
And the secrets that we shared.
The mountains that we moved.
Caught like a wildfire out of control
‘Til there was nothing left to burn and nothing left to prove.

And I remember what she said to me,
How she swore that it never would end.
I remember how she held me oh, so tight.
Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.

Against the wind.
We were runnin’ against the wind.
We were young and strong.
We were runnin’ against the wind.

The years rolled slowly past,
And I found myself alone.
Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends,
I found myself further and further from my home. And I
Guess I lost my way.
There were oh, so many roads.
I was living to run and running to live,
Never worried about payin’ or even how much I owed.

Moving eight miles a minute for months at a time,
Breaking all of the rules that would bend,
I began to find myself searching,
Searching for shelter again and again.
Against the wind.
A little somethin’ against the wind.
I found myself seeking shelter against the wind.

Well those drifter’s days are past me now.
I’ve got so much more to think about.
Deadlines and commitments,
What to leave in, what to leave out.

(Against the wind) I’m still runnin’ against the wind.
I’m older now but still runnin’ against the wind.
Well I’m older now and still runnin’.
(Against the wind)
(Against the wind)
(Against the wind) Still runnin’.
(Against the wind) I’m still runnin’.
(Against the wind)
(Against the wind) I’m still runnin’.
(Against the wind) I’m still runnin’ against the wind.
(Against the wind) Still runnin’.
(Against the wind) Runnin’ against the wind, runnin’ against the wind.
(Against the wind) See the young man run.
(Against the wind) Watch the young man run.
(Against the wind) Watch the young man runnin’.
(Against the wind) He’ll be runnin’ against the wind.
(Against the wind) Let the cowboys ride.
(Against the wind) Aah!
(Against the wind) Let the cowboys ride.
(Against the wind) They’ll be ridin’ against the wind.
(Against the wind) Against the wind.
(Against the wind) Ridin’ against the wind.

https://rockysmith.net/2013/03/09/tune-o-the-day-30/

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Sins and Virtues

In olden times, all religions had a seriously Old Testament mindset, and the masses were lectured vigorously about the basics: behaviors to avoid and behaviors to emulate.

To codify the message for easier consumption, two handy lists evolved: the “Seven Deadly Sins” and their mirror image, the “Seven Heavenly Virtues.”

Neither list is mentioned in the Bible, but over the centuries, they nonetheless became well known and influential, and they remain so today, dear to the hearts of religious conservatives.

To refresh your memory, the Seven Deadly Sins are pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth.

The Seven Heavenly Virtues are humility, charity, patience, kindness, chastity, temperance, and diligence.

I certainly agree that greed, gluttony, and all that are negative behaviors, and that humility, kindness, etc. are solidly positive. I do not, however, find it necessary to sit people down and explain it to them. Everyone understands basic morality perfectly well by the time they are five.

On the other hand, if folks are not gathered in a group, you can’t pass the collection plate.

The Seven Deadly Sins,” attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, circa 1500.

Aerodynamics

The game of golf as we know it originated in Scotland in the 1500s. It probably evolved from either the Roman game of paganica or the Chinese game of chuiwan, both of which involved using a stick to knock a ball into a hole in the ground.

When the Scottish version arose, golf balls were fashioned by hand of beech wood. They were more or less round, but often were off-balance, making them maddeningly unpredictable in flight.

Sometime in the 1600s, a slight design improvement appeared: a leather ball stuffed with feathers. This version was better balanced and thus less erratic. But a dry ball did not behave like a wet one. Plus, the feathers had to be boiled and softened prior to stuffing, making the process labor-intensive and costly. And still, the balls were round in only a general sense.

In 1848, a Scottish clergyman discovered that the rubbery sap of the sapodilla tree could be heated, placed in a round mold, and allowed to harden into a sphere. With this “gutta percha” ball (translation: Sumatran latex), the mass manufacturing of cheap, reasonably aerodynamic golf balls finally was made possible.

Fifty years later, the sap was replaced by a core of tightly-wrapped rubber thread. Further, someone discovered that adding dimples to the ball improved control of the ball’s trajectory.

Fast forward to the present. The governing bodies of the game closely control the specifications and manufacturing of all golf equipment. Worldwide, an estimated 1.2 billion golf balls are manufactured each year.

Annually, in the US alone, some 300 million golf balls are lost.

Keep Calm

Keep Calm and Carry On is the perfect slogan to be corrupted into memes. I mean, it practically begs to be parodied.

Keep Calm and Carry. Keep Calm and Carry On My Wayward Son. Keep Calm and Carry Hand Sanitizer, Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake. Freak Out and Run.

The slogan originated in 1939 on a motivational poster created by the British Ministry of Information to boost public morale as World War II approached. The idea was to call upon the British self-image of remaining calm and resolute when facing adversity.

Actually, the government designed three posters and was poised to distribute millions of copies if a German attack came. Each poster featured the Tudor crown, a symbol of the state.

Immediately, the government was criticized for wasting money and patronizing the public. Very few of the posters were distributed, and the program soon was canceled. According to one historian, the effort was a “resounding failure” by clueless bureaucrats.

The posters essentially were forgotten until 2000, when copies were discovered in an English bookshop. Only a few original prints were know to have survived until Antiques Roadshow turned up a batch of 15 prints in 2012.

I think the criticism of the project was misplaced. Patronizing? Baloney. To me, the posters seem perfectly “stiff-upper-lip” British. Straight out of a Churchill speech.

The critics should have just, you know, kept calm.

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BEAVERTON, OREGON — A car thief who discovered a toddler in the back seat of the vehicle returned the child to the mother, chastised her for leaving the child unattended, and took off again with the car.

According to police, the woman went inside a meat market, leaving her four-year-old in the car with the engine running and the vehicle unlocked. While she was in the market, a young white male stole the car.

When the thief saw the toddler in the back seat, he immediately returned to the market. A police officer said, “He actually lectured the mother for leaving the child in the car and threatened to call the police on her.”

The vehicle was found later in Portland. Police are still searching for the thief.

CINCINNATI, OHIO — An Ohio man marked Lent by giving up solid foods and getting most of his nourishment from beer.

Lent is an observance among Christians leading up to Easter Sunday, during which believers pray, repent, and perform acts of denial and simple living.

Del Hall of Cincinnati said his Lent diet consisted only of beer, water, black coffee, and herbal tea. He said he drank three to five beers per day.

Hall completed Lent beer diets in 2019 and 2020 and lost about 50 pounds each time. He also said his blood pressure and cholesterol levels improved.

“The human body is an amazing thing,” Hall said. “We’re used to going through life as hunter-gatherers — feast and famine. The problem is we don’t go through the famine anymore.”

SAND LAKE, MICHIGAN — Milo, a springer spaniel who wandered away from home, was found 44 days later and 20 miles away at the bottom of an abandoned grain silo.

A Sand Lake resident told Kent County animal control officers he heard barking and feared a dog had fallen into the old silo. The officers responded and found Milo inside the 10-foot-deep structure.

The officers used a rope to lasso Milo and haul him to safety.

During his ordeal, Milo endured snow storms and frigid temperatures, and he suffered significant weight loss and dehydration. He was reunited with his family and has no permanent injuries.

Milo in the silo.

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The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

John Kenneth Galbraith

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It is not what we profess, but what we practice that gives us integrity.

Francis Bacon

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When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade without further introduction.

Mark Twain

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Social media gives legions of idiots the right to speak when they once only spoke at a bar after a glass of wine, without harming the community. Then they were quickly silenced, but now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner. It’s the invasion of the idiots.

Umberto Eco

Galbraith

Eco

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The subject of presidential succession isn’t something people spend much time contemplating, but, God help me, I find it interesting.

Yes, I intend to elaborate, so if you need to be somewhere else right now, I fully understand.

You may recall that, when Biden won the 2020 election, former President Grab ‘em and the GOP promptly began to cry foul and act the fool — engaging in a series of jerk moves of the tantrum variety. You know, the type of petty and spiteful behavior they now embrace routinely. More about that directly.

Most people know that if a U.S. President dies, resigns, is removed from office, or becomes incapacitated, the powers and duties of the office pass to the Vice President.

Further, if the Vice President is unable to serve, the Speaker of the House is next in line.

But there’s more. Third in line is the President pro tempore of the Senate, followed by the Cabinet secretaries, in the order their offices were created.

Currently, Biden’s Cabinet consists of 15 secretaries. All those folks are eligible to ascend to the presidency if they meet the qualifications required by the Constitution.

The details of presidential succession were set down in Article II of the Constitution, then tweaked in the 12th amendment (1804), the 20th Amendment (1933), and the 25th Amendment (1967). The 25th Amendment, in fact, deals solely with presidential succession and disability.

As for eligibility, Article II establishes three requirements to become President: a person must be a natural-born citizen, must be at least 35 years of age, and must have been a U.S. resident for 14 years.

Currently, two members of Biden’s Cabinet are ineligible to serve as President because they are not natural-born citizens. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm was born in Canada, and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas was born in Cuba.

Everyone else in the line of succession is eligible, as unlikely an event as that may be.

Thus, if some terrible calamity occurred, the above-mentioned officeholders would be sworn in as President in this order:

1. Vice President Kamala Harris
2. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
3. President pro tempore of the Senate Patrick Leahy
4. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
5. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen
6. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
7. Attorney General Merrick Garland
8. Secretary of the Interior Deb Halland
9. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
10. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo
11. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh
12. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra
13. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge
14. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
— Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm
15. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona
16. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough
— Secretary of Labor Alejandro Mayorkas

The truth is, I couldn’t pick most of those folks out of a lineup. But Team Biden chose them, which speaks to their competence and qualifications. I’m confident any of them could serve ably. After all, they aren’t Republicans.

Speaking of Neanderthals, the succession list during the Trump Administration was so depressing, so populated by villains, fools, and ne’er-do-wells, that I choose not to display it.

Another matter related to presidential succession originated in the 1950s during the Cold War era: the practice of naming a designated successor or designated survivor when the above officials gather for an event.

Accordingly, at all large official gatherings — inaugurations, State of the Union addresses, Presidential addresses to Congress — one person in the line of succession is whisked away to a secure, undisclosed location in case some awful mass-casualty event wiped out all the other would-be presidents.

Before the 2020 election, as you recall, the Orange Vulgarian predicted that the Democrats would try to rig the election. Then, when he lost on November 3, he alleged widespread voter fraud and other nefarious misconduct (providing no specifics or evidence, of course; he simply was lying as usual), and he insisted he was the actual winner.

So, instead of having a normal period of transition to the new administration, we had the sorry spectacle of Trump blocking Biden’s transition team from doing its work.

Specifically, a Trump flunky refused to sign certain official paperwork, and for several weeks, the Biden team was not given access to the normal funding and office space. A typical jerk move by the Republicans.

The flunky was Emily Murphy, Trump’s Administrator of the General Services Administration. Before her gig at the GSA, Murphy was an attorney for the Republican National Committee, which explains a lot.

On November 23, she finally relented and signed the authorizing documents. Two weeks later, she resigned and left the administration. Buh-bye, Emily.

It’s an interesting fact that when Biden was inaugurated as President on January 20, the Trump White House did not announce a designated successor for the event. When pressed, a Trump spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny that one had been appointed.

Which probably means that Trump, class act that he is, declined to name one; doing so would seem like acknowledging the Biden victory.

One final fact on this subject: in April, when Biden addressed a joint session of Congress, no designated successor was appointed.

Why not? Because naming a successor wasn’t necessary. Attendance was limited due to COVID restrictions, and most of the Cabinet would not attend anyway.

Emily Murphy, who orchestrated a parting jerk move on behalf of the abominable, deplorable, twice-impeached outgoing president.

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Tama the Station Master

In January 2007, the manager at the railway station in Kinokawa, Japan, gave the title of Station Master to his cat Tama, with the primary duty of greeting passengers.

At the time, ridership was down. The station was operating with reduced staff, and Wakayama Railway had considered closing the operation. But after Tama was appointed, ridership increased. The company joyfully stepped in, creating a gold name tag for Tama’s collar and designing a special station master’s hat for her.

Thereafter, Tama appeared in the news regularly, usually when she received a promotion or award. Tourists flocked to see her. A ticket booth in the station was converted into her office.

In 2010, Tama’s mother Miiko and sister Chibi were named Assistant Station Masters. In 2012, a deputy named Nitama (“Second Tama”), was appointed.

Tama died in 2015 and was succeeded by Nitama, who remains in office today.

According to a study, Tama generated about one billion yen for the local economy. A newspaper pointed out that she was the only female in a managerial position at Wakayama Railway.

The White Bridge

In 1926 in my adopted town of Jefferson, Georgia, a concrete arch bridge was built across Curry Creek, replacing an old wooden covered bridge. At the time, reinforced concrete was the latest thing in bridges — practical, cheap, and versatile.

Curry Creek Bridge is its official name, but, as I learned when I moved to Jefferson in 2006, the locals call it the White Bridge. I had to accept that description on faith, because the bridge needed a serious cleaning. Like most aging concrete bridges, it was an unsightly, moldy gray. It was, like, the Ugly Bridge.

Finally, late last year, the Highway Department gave the bridge some attention. Structural repairs were made, and the entire thing was sandblasted and stripped of accumulated grime.

When the project was completed and the tarps removed, I drove downtown to see the White Bridge restored to its former glory.

Alas, nine decades of exposure to the elements had taken a toll. Yes, the bridge looks much better, but it isn’t what you’d call white. It’s more the color of a banana (the fruit, not the peel). Or eggnog. Or mayonnaise.

I guess the Mayonnaise Bridge is better than the Ugly Bridge.

Seven Wonders

The ancient Greeks were big on the number seven. To them, seven somehow represented perfection and held the promise of personal enrichment (lucky seven). Hence, when some Greek deep thinkers decided to make a list of the wonders of the world, the list was bound to be seven wonders long.

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are/were the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and the statue of Zeus at Olympia.

All seven are located in the Mediterranean region, the back yard of the Greeks. The rest of the world? Meh.

The list isn’t official or binding in any way, of course, and over the centuries, it has been modified regularly. Frequent additions were the Roman Colosseum, Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, etc.

In 1997, in an interesting twist, CNN listed the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Named were the Aurora Borealis (northern lights), Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, Mount Everest, Victoria Falls, Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro Harbor, and the Paricutin volcano in Mexico.

Regarding the last two: the harbor at Rio de Janeiro is the world’s largest natural harbor. It has 130 islands and is ringed by mountains. Paricutin volcano erupted unexpectedly in 1943 in a farmer’s field, grew to 1,400 feet tall, and went dormant in 1952, leaving a cinder cone that is now a popular tourist attraction.

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

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The Questions…

1. During WWII, how were the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence safeguarded?

2. What company owns, among other brands, Lamborghini, Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti, and Ducati?

3. By what name is the painting “La Gioconda” better known?

4. How long is an eon?

5. In parts of Europe, and in many countries that once were part of the British Empire, what is the day after Christmas called?

The Answers…

1. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the documents were moved to the US Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky. After the D-Day landings in 1944, they were returned to Washington, DC.

2. Volkswagen AG.

3. The Mona Lisa. The painting by Leonardo da Vinci is believed to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, an Italian noblewoman whose husband, rich businessman Francesco del Giocondo, was a big shot in the Silk Guild.

4. In common usage, an eon usually is an indefinite, very long period of time. In astronomy and geology, however, it is one billion years.

5. “Boxing Day,” which originated eons ago in the UK. It probably is connected to an old tradition of giving gifts to people working service jobs or to the poor. Boxing may refer to a Christmas box given to the needy or to church donation boxes.

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Boogeyman

A boogeyman is a fictional being, sometimes male, sometimes female, used by adults to frighten children into behaving. The entity is known by a variety of names in cultures around the world.

In Spain, if little Diego doesn’t go to sleep, he is told that El Coco will come in the night and carry him away in a sack. Little Diego’s blood runs cold, and he tries valiantly to fall asleep.

In the US, conservative politicians use the same shtick to frighten right-wing voters. They warn of a vaguely-defined thing called “socialism,” an abomination that will take away Uncle Fred’s rights, freedoms, and way of life. Uncle Fred’s blood runs cold, and he donates money to the GOP.

You, being a level-headed person, no doubt are aware that socialism is not evil per se. Socialism is a point of view — a range of political and economic concepts. I struggle to explain the idea accurately because I haven’t studied economics since my sophomore year in college.

But I’ll try. The crux of socialism is that society itself should be in charge and control things for the common good. To a socialist, the degree of private ownership we have under capitalism is a definite no-no because capitalism is, well, ruthless, selfish, and totally unconcerned about the common good. Capitalism is an I’m for me first concept.

Beyond that, devotees of socialism disagree on the controls and regulations needed, the form of government that works best, etc.

It’s also a fact that the US government freely practices socialism in all sorts of ways. Society is social, so that’s inevitable.

Those socialist programs are quite familiar: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, NPR, PBS, NASA, highways, bridges, dams, garbage collection, health care, food stamps, farm subsidies.

Not to mention public schools, public beaches, public housing, public zoos, public museums, public buses, public landfills, state and national monuments, prisons, the court system.

Plus the VA, the National Weather Service, FEMA, the IRS, the Peace Corps, farm subsidies, Amtrak, student loans, fire and police departments, street lighting, public defenders, the Amber Alert system.

Some of the biggest federal departments are socialistic to the bone: the Departments of Agriculture, Transportation, and Energy, the US military, the FDA, the Postal Service.

You get the picture.

My political beliefs are decidedly liberal, and I believe that the purpose of government should be to share the wealth — to use the public’s money to help the public, leaving nobody behind. To that extent, I reckon I’m pretty much a socialist.

But I’m not a firebrand about it. I’m at the moderate end of the spectrum. In general, I think America has genuine potential, although it needs serious work.

Namely, we need to wrest control of the country from the billionaires. We need to develop better ways to rein in the crooks, cheats, and parasites and focus, honestly and truly, on the common good.

We could start by abolishing the Senate filibuster; taxing the rich with great vigor; cutting the living hell out of military spending; and creating a new “Medicare for all” health care system that cuts out the for-profit corporations and provides full medical care to everyone, period.

That last suggestion is how the health care systems function in half the countries of Europe, so we know it works. We have the template.

As for Uncle Fred, the MAGA crowd, the GOP politicians, and the rest of the conservative world, I say it’s time they put up or shut up.

Some of them may quietly agree that many aspects of socialism are positive. But if they truly believe that socialism is evil incarnate, they need to stick to their principles.

They should refuse to accept Medicare and Social Security. They should resolve never to call 911, because fire and police departments are socialistic by definition.

They shouldn’t use public parks, libraries, or beaches or send their children to public school. And they should drive only on toll roads.

Put up or shut up.

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The national parliament of Iceland is the oldest governing assembly in the world. It dates back to 930 AD, when Viking chieftains gathered in an open field to discuss mutual issues. The field was the site of Icelandic government meetings until 1798, when it was moved to Reykjavik and, finally, indoors.

● In 2007, actor Nicolas Cage won an auction for a dinosaur skull, bidding against, among others, Leonardo DiCaprio. Cage paid $276,000 for the skull. A few years later, evidence surfaced that the skull had been stolen from Mongolia, and Cage had to return it. He didn’t get his $276,000 back.

● The letter e is used three times and pronounced three different ways in the word Mercedes.

● In 2005, remains were found in South Dakota of an extra-large cousin of the Velociraptor popularized by the Jurassic Park films. The new cousin, Dakotaraptor, was about 18 feet long and weighed 500 or so pounds. The largest known cousin so far is Utahraptor at about 23 feet long and 600 pounds.

FYI, Velociraptors actually were about the size of a turkey. Spielberg knew that, but he really liked the name Velociraptor.

● Martin Luther King, Jr. was born Michael King, Jr. When he was five, his father changed both of their names to honor Martin Luther, the German theologian who started the Protestant Church in the days of Columbus.

● In 1920, the “American Professional Football Association” was established in Canton, Ohio. Five of the 16 original teams were based in Cleveland. In 1922, the group changed its name to the “National Football League.”

● Pistachio nuts are especially dry and high in fat content — so much so that when the nuts are transported, the temperature, humidity, and air pressure must be carefully controlled to prevent them from over-heating and exploding.

● The Clowns’ Gallery-Museum, a display of clown costumes, memorabilia, and reference material, was founded in 1959 in the basement of Holy Trinity Church in London. Due to the growth of the collection, the museum opened a second location in Somerset in 2007.

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