Posts Tagged ‘Society’

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MADRID, SPAIN — A Spanish high court has ruled that the city of Aldaia wrongfully fined a man for walking naked on a public street, citing the fact that public nudity has been legal in Spain since 1988.

Earlier, the fine levied against Alejandro Colomar, 29, was struck down by a lower court, but officials in Aldaia appealed the ruling on grounds that a city ordinance forbids public nudity. The high court said the national law took precedence and observed that Colomar’s nudity did nothing to harm “citizen security, tranquility, or public order.”

Colomar said he began going naked in public in 2020 and has received more support than insults, although he once was threatened with a knife.

Colomar, who arrived in court wearing only a pair of hiking boots, was asked to wear pants to enter the building.

ZAGREB, CROATIA — A restaurant in Zagreb is the first in the world to serve meals prepared by robot chefs — completely from scratch, using fresh ingredients.

Bots & Pots Sci-Food Bistro features some 70 different one-pot meals prepared by robotic “GammaChef” cooks. The only human involvement is loading the devices with ingredients. So far, customers have praised the quality of the food.

According to the owners of the restaurant, the head chef programmed the five GammaChef machines to cook the dishes on the menu unassisted. Each GammaChef can cook four meals in 15 minutes, so technically, the restaurant can serve almost 100 meals per hour.

The owner said one restaurant with five robots can be run by a single person. “Our final goal is to create a ‘no waiter, no chef, no cash’ space where you order, get, and pay for food without human contact.”

CALDWELL, IDAHO — Members of the Caldwell Fire and Police Departments rescued a dog from the upper branches of a tree following a squirrel-chasing episode that went wrong.

Izzy, a pit bull-husky mix, followed a squirrel up the tree and, when he couldn’t figure out how to get down, froze. When Izzy’s owner discovered him, she placed an emergency call.

Ultimately, the rescuers positioned a ladder in the tree, and a firefighter carried Izzy to the ground.

The owner noted that Izzy was “never even close” to catching the squirrel.

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British writer Hector Hugh Munro (1870–1916) — AKA H. H. Munro, AKA Saki — was fond of satirizing Edwardian society, and skilled at doing so.

Munro grew up in Burma, now Myanmar, where his father was a high official of the British colonial police. His pen name Saki is said to have come from the character of the cupbearer (God) in the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam; the Farsi word for cupbearer translates to “sAghi” in English.

Re the title of the story below: in British usage, a “lumber room” is a storage room, a place for unused furniture and other items. Such a dusty and little-used room would be intriguing to a child, especially if the room were off limits.

Also be aware that the “rain-water tank” in the story is much larger than what we Yanks know as a rain barrel. In Munro’s time, large buildings often had massive rainwater catchments that could, indeed, trap a careless aunt.


The Lumber Room

By Saki
Published in Beasts and Super-Beasts, 1914

The children were to be driven, as a special treat, to the sands at Jagborough. Nicholas was not to be of the party; he was in disgrace. Only that morning he had refused to eat his wholesome bread-and-milk on the seemingly frivolous ground that there was a frog in it.

Older and wiser and better people had told him that there could not possibly be a frog in his bread-and-milk and that he was not to talk nonsense; he continued, nevertheless, to talk what seemed the veriest nonsense, and described with much detail the coloration and markings of the alleged frog. The dramatic part of the incident was that there really was a frog in Nicholas’s basin of bread-and-milk; he had put it there himself, so he felt entitled to know something about it.

The sin of taking a frog from the garden and putting it into a bowl of wholesome bread-and-milk was enlarged on at great length, but the fact that stood out clearest in the whole affair, as it presented itself to the mind of Nicholas, was that the older, wiser, and better people had been proved to be profoundly in error in matters about which they had expressed the utmost assurance.

“You said there couldn’t possibly be a frog in my bread-and-milk; there was a frog in my bread-and-milk,” he repeated, with the insistence of a skilled tactician who does not intend to shift from favourable ground.

So his boy-cousin and girl-cousin and his quite uninteresting younger brother were to be taken to Jagborough sands that afternoon and he was to stay at home. His cousins’ aunt, who insisted, by an unwarranted stretch of imagination, in styling herself his aunt also, had hastily invented the Jagborough expedition in order to impress on Nicholas the delights that he had justly forfeited by his disgraceful conduct at the breakfast-table.

It was her habit, whenever one of the children fell from grace, to improvise something of a festival nature from which the offender would be rigorously debarred; if all the children sinned collectively they were suddenly informed of a circus in a neighbouring town, a circus of unrivaled merit and uncounted elephants, to which, but for their depravity, they would have been taken that very day.

A few decent tears were looked for on the part of Nicholas when the moment for the departure of the expedition arrived. As a matter of fact, however, all the crying was done by his girl-cousin, who scraped her knee rather painfully against the step of the carriage as she was scrambling in.

“How she did howl,” said Nicholas cheerfully, as the party drove off without any of the elation of high spirits that should have characterized it.

“She’ll soon get over that,” said the soi-disant aunt; “it will be a glorious afternoon for racing about over those beautiful sands. How they will enjoy themselves!”

“Bobby won’t enjoy himself much, and he won’t race much either,” said Nicholas with a grim chuckle; “his boots are hurting him. They’re too tight.”

“Why didn’t he tell me they were hurting?” asked the aunt with some asperity.

“He told you twice, but you weren’t listening. You often don’t listen when we tell you important things.”

“You are not to go into the gooseberry garden,” said the aunt, changing the subject.

“Why not?” demanded Nicholas.

“Because you are in disgrace,” said the aunt loftily.

Nicholas did not admit the flawlessness of the reasoning; he felt perfectly capable of being in disgrace and in a gooseberry garden at the same moment. His face took on an expression of considerable obstinacy. It was clear to his aunt that he was determined to get into the gooseberry garden, “only,” as she remarked to herself, “because I have told him he is not to.”

Now the gooseberry garden had two doors by which it might be entered, and once a small person like Nicholas could slip in there he could effectually disappear from view amid the masking growth of artichokes, raspberry canes, and fruit bushes. The aunt had many other things to do that afternoon, but she spent an hour or two in trivial gardening operations among flower beds and shrubberies, whence she could watch the two doors that led to the forbidden paradise. She was a woman of few ideas, with immense powers of concentration.

Nicholas made one or two sorties into the front garden, wriggling his way with obvious stealth of purpose towards one or other of the doors, but never able for a moment to evade the aunt’s watchful eye. As a matter of fact, he had no intention of trying to get into the gooseberry garden, but it was extremely convenient for him that his aunt should believe that he had; it was a belief that would keep her on self-imposed sentry-duty for the greater part of the afternoon.

Having thoroughly confirmed and fortified her suspicions, Nicholas slipped back into the house and rapidly put into execution a plan of action that had long germinated in his brain. By standing on a chair in the library one could reach a shelf on which reposed a fat, important-looking key. The key was as important as it looked; it was the instrument which kept the mysteries of the lumber-room secure from unauthorized intrusion, which opened a way only for aunts and such-like privileged persons.

Nicholas had not had much experience of the art of fitting keys into keyholes and turning locks, but for some days past he had practised with the key of the schoolroom door; he did not believe in trusting too much to luck and accident. The key turned stiffly in the lock, but it turned. The door opened, and Nicholas was in an unknown land, compared with which the gooseberry garden was a stale delight, a mere material pleasure.

Often and often Nicholas had pictured to himself what the lumber-room might be like, that region that was so carefully sealed from youthful eyes and concerning which no questions were ever answered. It came up to his expectations. In the first place it was large and dimly lit, one high window opening onto the forbidden garden being its only source of illumination. In the second place it was a storehouse of unimagined treasures.

The aunt-by-assertion was one of those people who think that things spoil by use and consign them to dust and damp by way of preserving them. Such parts of the house as Nicholas knew best were rather bare and cheerless, but here there were wonderful things for the eye to feast on.

First and foremost there was a piece of framed tapestry that was evidently meant to be a fire-screen. To Nicholas it was a living, breathing story; he sat down on a roll of Indian hangings, glowing in wonderful colours beneath a layer of dust, and took in all the details of the tapestry picture.

A man, dressed in the hunting costume of some remote period, had just transfixed a stag with an arrow; it could not have been a difficult shot because the stag was only one or two paces away from him; in the thickly growing vegetation that the picture suggested it would not have been difficult to creep up to a feeding stag, and the two spotted dogs that were springing forward to join in the chase had evidently been trained to keep to heel till the arrow was discharged.

That part of the picture was simple, if interesting, but did the huntsman see, what Nicholas saw, that four galloping wolves were coming in his direction through the wood? There might be more than four of them hidden behind the trees, and in any case would the man and his dogs be able to cope with the four wolves if they made an attack? The man had only two arrows left in his quiver, and he might miss with one or both of them; all one knew about his skill in shooting was that he could hit a large stag at a ridiculously short range. Nicholas sat for many golden minutes revolving the possibilities of the scene; he was inclined to think that there were more than four wolves and that the man and his dogs were in a tight corner.

But there were other objects of delight and interest claiming his instant attention; there were quaint twisted candlesticks in the shape of snakes, and a teapot fashioned like a china duck, out of whose open beak the tea was supposed to come. How dull and shapeless the nursery teapot seemed in comparison! And there was a carved sandalwood box packed tight with aromatic cotton-wool, and between the layers of cotton-wool were little brass figures, hump-necked bulls, and peacocks and goblins, delightful to see and to handle.

Less promising in appearance was a large square book with plain black covers; Nicholas peeped into it, and, behold, it was full of coloured pictures of birds. And such birds! In the garden, and in the lanes when he went for a walk, Nicholas came across a few birds, of which the largest were an occasional magpie or wood-pigeons. Here were herons and bustards, kites, toucans, tiger-bitterns, brush turkeys, ibises, golden pheasants, a whole portrait gallery of undreamed-of creatures.

And as he was admiring the colouring of the mandarin duck and assigning a life-history to it, the voice of his aunt in shrill vociferation of his name came from the gooseberry garden without. She had grown suspicious at his long disappearance, and had leapt to the conclusion that he had climbed over the wall behind the sheltering screen of the lilac bushes: she was now engaged in energetic and rather hopeless search for him among the artichokes and raspberry canes.

“Nicholas, Nicholas!” she screamed, “you are to come out of this at once. It’s no use trying to hide there; I can see you all the time.”

It was probably the first time for twenty years that any one had smiled in that lumber-room.

Presently the angry repetitions of Nicholas’s name gave way to a shriek, and a cry for somebody to come quickly. Nicholas shut the book, restored it carefully to its place in a corner, and shook some dust from a neighbouring pile of newspapers over it. Then he crept from the room, locked the door, and replaced the key exactly where he had found it. His aunt was still calling his name when he sauntered into the front garden.

“Who’s calling?” he asked.

“Me,” came the answer from the other side of the wall; “didn’t you hear me? I’ve been looking for you in the gooseberry garden, and I’ve slipped into the rain-water tank. Luckily there’s no water in it, but the sides are slippery and I can’t get out. Fetch the little ladder from under the cherry tree —”

“I was told I wasn’t to go into the gooseberry garden,” said Nicholas promptly.

“I told you not to, and now I tell you that you may,” came the voice from the rain-water tank, rather impatiently.

“Your voice doesn’t sound like aunt’s,” objected Nicholas; “you may be the Evil One tempting me to be disobedient. Aunt often tells me that the Evil One tempts me and that I always yield. This time I’m not going to yield.”

“Don’t talk nonsense,” said the prisoner in the tank; “go and fetch the ladder.”

“Will there be strawberry jam for tea?” asked Nicholas innocently.

“Certainly there will be,” said the aunt, privately resolving that Nicholas should have none of it.

“Now I know that you are the Evil One and not aunt,” shouted Nicholas gleefully; “when we asked aunt for strawberry jam yesterday she said there wasn’t any. I know there are four jars of it in the store cupboard, because I looked, and of course you know it’s there, but she doesn’t, because she said there wasn’t any. Oh, Devil, you have sold yourself!”

There was an unusual sense of luxury in being able to talk to an aunt as though one was talking to the Evil One, but Nicholas knew, with childish discernment that such luxuries were not to be over-indulged in. He walked noisily away, and it was a kitchenmaid, in search of parsley, who eventually rescued the aunt from the rain-water tank.

Tea that evening was partaken of in a fearsome silence. The tide had been at its highest when the children had arrived at Jagborough Cove, so there had been no sands to play on — a circumstance that the aunt had overlooked in the haste of organising her punitive expedition. The tightness of Bobby’s boots had had a disastrous effect on his temper the whole of the afternoon, and altogether the children could not have been said to have enjoyed themselves. The aunt maintained the frozen muteness of one who has suffered undignified and unmerited detention in a rain-water tank for thirty-five minutes.

As for Nicholas, he, too, was silent, in the absorption of one who has much to think about; it was just possible, he considered, that the huntsman would escape with his hounds while the wolves feasted on the stricken stag.

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Thoughts du Jour


Water, water everywhere. Water accounts for about 60 percent of the body weight of an adult male human and about 55 percent of an adult female. We are born consisting of about 78 percent water. By age one, our water content is down to about 65 percent.

Your lungs are 83 percent water, your muscles and kidneys 79 percent, your brain and heart 73 percent, your skin 64 percent, and your bones 31 percent.

The water in your body is plenty busy. It serves as a building material for cells, flushes out waste, lubricates joints, absorbs shock, helps maintain you at the right temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen where they need to go, and forms saliva, which allows you to eat.

To remain properly hydrated, an adult male should consume a little over three quarts of water per day. An adult female needs a little over two quarts per day.

Fascist Theocracy

Some years ago, the CNN program Crossfire featured the strained concept of a liberal, a conservative, and a centrist arguing about things. The idea was ridiculous. I never watched.

Two Crossfire episodes became rather famous. In 2004, John Stewart berated Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala for partisanship in lieu of honesty. And in 1986, the late Frank Zappa said conservatives want to establish religious fascism in America.

Zappa said this:

The biggest threat to America today is not communism. It’s moving America toward a fascist theocracy. And everything that’s happened during the Reagan administration is steering us right down that pipe.

When you have a government that prefers a certain moral code derived from a certain religion, and that moral code turns into legislation to suit one certain religious point of view, and if that code happens to be very, very right-wing, almost toward Attila the Hun…

Zappa allowed the sentence to trail off there, point made.

Zappa understood that government-sanctioned morality is poison. When you mix church and state, you get the Taliban, al Qaeda, Sharia Law, and today’s Republican brand of christo-fascism.

Hyperbole? No. This spring, the Texas Senate passed a bill requiring that all public schools display the 10 Commandments. It passed another bill setting aside time every school day for Bible-reading and prayer.

That is such an Orwellian example of fascist theocracy, it makes my teeth hurt.

Busy Bees

We usually think of bees in terms of hives, queens, buzzing, swarming, and such, but many bee species, such as carpenter bees, are solitary, not social. And they’re just as important pollinators as honey bees and bumblebees.

Also fascinating: many solitary bees have evolved to specialize in and pollinate specific plants.

Most solitary bees live only one season. In the fall, a female will prepare several underground chambers, stock them with pollen and nectar, lay her eggs, seal them, and depart to die over the winter.

In the spring, her pupae will remain underground and delay emerging until their specialty plants are active. How the buried pupae know when conditions are right topside is something the experts would really like to know.

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The Questions…

1. Khalas, barhi, medjool, sukkary, rutab, and halawi are varieties of what fruit?

2. What are the names of the two moons of Mars?

3. People from Spain, Germany, and Norway are called Spaniards, Germans, and Norwegians, respectively. What are people from Denmark called?

4. According to Polish folklore, what power does mistletoe have?

5. What was the original name of the Subway sandwich chain?

The Answers…

1. Dates, of which more than 200 varieties are cultivated.

2. Deimos and Phobos. They were discovered and named by American astronomer Asaph Hall in 1877. Oddly, Deimos and Phobos are the sons of Ares, the Greek version of the Roman god Mars. Why Hall didn’t name the moons Romulus and Remus, the sons of Mars in Roman mythology, is a good question.

3. Danes.

4. The ability to ward off evil.

5. Pete’s Super Submarines.

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Recently, due to ongoing ethics problems regarding the Supreme Court Justices, the Senate Judiciary Committee invited Chief Justice Roberts to meet and discuss ways to enforce the rules of conduct for the justices. There are rules, you see, but no mechanisms to enforce them.

Roberts declined the invitation. Instead, he sent the committee a letter signed by all nine justices declaring that everything is just fine the way it is, so go scratch.

Not a good attitude when polls show that a mere 25 percent of Americans have a “great deal” of confidence in the Supreme Court. Three-fourths of the country, in other words, does not.

Count me with the three-fourths. I lost all respect for the Court during the presidential election of 2000, when the court halted the counting of votes in Florida, thus awarding the presidency to George Bush the younger. That was contrived and nakedly partisan. The country deserved better from the Court.

It still does. The ethics problems, and the above-mentioned letter, are evidence that the justices feel free to do what they want because they consider themselves to be, if not above the law, then in little danger of facing consequences.

As it stands, impeachment is the only way to punish a justice for misconduct. That will not happen until Democrats hold a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate.

Meanwhile, if Clarence Thomas accepts hundred of thousands of dollars worth of free flights around the world, yachting vacations, and other lavish gifts from Republican fatcat Harlan Crow, and Thomas doesn’t even disclose those gifts as required by law, we have no recourse.

If fatcat Crow buys real estate from Thomas, including the home of Clarence’s mama, where she apparently still lives rent-free, nothing can be done.

If the head of a law firm that regularly argues cases before the Supreme Court buys $2 million worth of property from Neil Gorsuch, we can only watch.

If the wife of Chief Justice Roberts becomes a “legal recruiter” who makes millions by placing well-connected attorneys and prominent former politicians at the right law firms, you can label it crass influence-peddling, but you can’t stop her.

Easily the worst offender, the justice guilty of the most egregious ethical lapses we know about so far, is Clarence Thomas.

His wife Ginni is an outspoken right-wing activist who from 2003-2007 was paid almost $700,000 in salary by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Clarence declared her income as “none” for those years.

When reporters found out about it 10 years later, he amended his tax forms. But Thomas has never recused himself from a case in which Heritage was involved.

To this day, Ginni Thomas publicly insists that Democrats rigged the 2020 presidential election and stole it from Trump. She is fully on board with all the absurd MAGA and QAnon conspiracy theories. But Clarence has declined to recuse himself from any cases related to the January 6 insurrection.

The latest revelation: over a period of from one to four years, Harlan Crow paid the tuition of Thomas’ nephew at two Georgia boarding schools. The tuition at one of the schools was reported to be over $6,000 per month. Thomas did not report any of the gifts, which is a violation of the law.

Clarence Thomas is a corrupt man, a disgrace to the Judicial Branch, and unfit to serve. If he were not, if he possessed even a shred of integrity, he would resign and disappear.

If only we had been given a heads-up about the man’s true nature and lack of character years ago, before he was confirmed as a member of the Court…

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If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.

Dwight Eisenhower


All cruelty springs from weakness.

Seneca the Younger


The truth has no defense against a fool determined to believe a lie.

Mark Twain


If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution.

Stephen Hawking



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NANAIMO, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Police officers responding to a report of a man spray-painting the floor of a Tim Hortons restaurant arrested the man after they caught him spray-painting their patrol car.

Constables of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were taking evidence photos of the restaurant floor when a bystander said a man in the parking lot was spray-painting their vehicle.

As the constables approached, the man was standing on the hood of the vehicle “meticulously painting the windshield.” He hopped down and delivered a final blast of paint to the side of the cruiser before being subdued.

Officers said they found a small quantity of crystal meth in the man’s possession. The 24-year-old local resident was charged with mischief and possession of a controlled substance.

DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — The curator of a Dϋsseldorf art museum has discovered that an abstract work on display there has been hanging upside down for 75 years.

“New York City I,” created in 1941 by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, features colored tape on a white background. As displayed since 1980, the work is oriented so that more lines of tape are at the bottom of the work than at the top.

Museum curator Susanne Meyer-Büser said she recently found a 1944 photograph of the work on an easel in Mondrian’s studio, and it is positioned with more lines of tape at the top.

The error will not be corrected, Meyer-Büser said, because of the work’s age and condition. Much of the tape is “hanging by a thread,” she said, and turning it right side up likely would damage it.

“New York City I” does not bear Mondrian’s signature, which would have indicated how the work was to be displayed.

LAREDO, TEXAS — US Customs and Border Protection officers recently seized a massive shipment of cocaine disguised as packages of baby wipes.

Officials said drug-sniffing dogs discovered the cocaine at the Laredo Point of Entry during a routine inspection. A northbound truck was carrying 1,935 packages labeled as baby wipes, but actually containing 1,532 pounds of cocaine.

The drugs have a street value of about $11.8 million, making it the largest cocaine bust in Laredo in 20 years.

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The Questions…

1. In bowling, what do the terms turkey and hambone describe?

2. What was the maiden name of Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

3. November 11 has been observed as Veterans Day in the US since 1954. However, the holiday actually dated back several decades under another name. What name?

4. In the play Romeo and Juliet, who was the Montague and who was the Capulet?

5. What is a group of foxes called?

The Answers…

1. Three and four consecutive strikes, respectively. The terms probably date back to times when food was presented to tournament winners.

2. Her maiden name was Eleanor Roosevelt; she and FDR were fifth cousins.

3. Armistice Day, which marked the armistice with Germany that ended World War I. Memorably, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

4. Romeo was a Montague, Juliet was a Capulet.

5. A skulk or, less commonly, a leash. FYI, a female fox is a vixen, and a male is a tod.

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