Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Society’

Thoughts du Jour

Mummies

Humans have a habit of believing preposterous nonsense — embracing ideas that defy evidence and common sense. I could point to the behavior of today’s conservatives, but instead, consider the ancient Egyptians. They decided that the soul could not live on in the afterlife unless the body of the deceased was preserved. Seriously. Hence, their obsession with mummies.

The Egyptians traditionally buried the dead in the desert sand, which conveniently mummified the bodies. It was fine just to drop common folk in a hole, but it was inappropriate if you were important. So, for the rich and powerful, the Egyptians began building monument-style tombs.

The first such tomb was a mastaba, which in ancient Egyptian means “eternal house.” Mastabas were rectangular structures with inward-sloping sides and flat roofs, constructed of bricks made from mud. They protected the body from animals and grave robbers, but the absence of sand meant no mummification and — drat — no soul living on in the afterlife.

So they developed artificial mummification. For bigshots, of course. In time, the bigshots also concluded that mastabas weren’t elaborate enough, and pyramids became a thing.

In summary, the concept arose that your soul is doomed if your dead body decomposes as nature intended. Egyptian society seized on that idea and focused on it for several thousand years. You can’t make this stuff up.

The Island

For four years in the 1950s, my dad was stationed at Tyndall AFB, Florida, and we Smiths lived in nearby Panama City. In 1956, Dad got a one-year assignment as base commander at Thule AFB, Greenland. No dependents live at Thule, so Mom and us kids remained in Panama City.

Dad called, wrote, and sent photos regularly, which kept us up to date about life at Thule. One fact about the place that got a snicker from my 14-year-old self was the story of a small island within sight of the base named, in the Inuit language, Iganaq.

Due to its appearance in profile, people at Thule called the island the Witch’s Tit. Dad got a snicker, too, from telling us that.

In 1958, Greenland changed the name of the island from Iganaq to Dalrymple Rock. This was to honor Dr. Paul Dalrymple, a geographer and meteorologist who spent a good part of his career in Greenland.

Despite the name change, I’m sure the island remained Iganaq to the Inuit. And to the people stationed at Thule, it’s probably still the Witch’s Tit.

Unexpected Journey

When I stopped for lunch in Commerce recently, I had no way of knowing I was about to drive a mom and two preschoolers to the next county.

As I arrived at the Wendy’s parking lot, a female voice called out, “Sir! Sir! My car broke down, and my boys are with me, and my phone is dead! Can I borrow your phone to call my Nanna?”

The mom was in her late 20s and understandably stressed. I handed her my phone. She called Nanna, who didn’t answer, probably because it was from an unknown caller. So the mom sent a text. Still no reply. Nanna was MIA.

The mom thanked me and told me to proceed with my lunch. She said Nanna probably would respond soon. So I proceeded with lunch.

After lunch, I checked, and still no word from Nanna. I couldn’t just leave them stranded, so I told the mom I would drive them to Nanna’s house, which was about five minutes away. The mom protested feebly while transferring the boys and their car seats to my car.

She spent the drive trying to set me up with Nanna, who was described as healthy, active, attractive, and a widow. I was politely noncommittal.

Nanna was home, working in the garden. The mom wanted me to give Nanna my phone number, but Nanna (indeed a handsome woman) steered the mom away while waving a thank-you over her shoulder. I drove back to Commerce, where I bought some dog treats at Marshall’s.

Read Full Post »

The Questions…

1. What flower bulbs once were used as currency?

2. What is a fipple?

3. The best-selling novel of all time was written in Spain in the early 1600s. What is it?

4. In ancient Egypt, what served as pillows?

5. What is the largest known cave system in the world?

The Answers…

1. Tulip bulbs. In the Dutch Republic in 1634, tulips were a new thing, and a wave of “tulip mania” swept the country. Certain varieties of tulip became coveted luxury items that soon were accepted as currency. The speculative bubble burst in 1637, and the fad fizzled.

2. The mouthpiece of a wind instrument.

3. “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes. Over 500 million copies sold.

4. Chunks of wood or stone.

5. Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. People have explored 400 miles of it, and national park officials believe another 600 miles is out there. Also, scattered around the region are some 200 smaller caves not connected to the Mammoth system.

Read Full Post »

Just Do It

Okay, it’s time. Donald Trump, the disgraceful, traitorous former president, was caught stealing government documents. Attorney General Garland needs to direct his minions to file charges. Just do it.

Here are the facts about Trump, the twice-impeached loser, and the stolen documents.

In August, after a year of politely asking for the return of missing documents, and doing a dance with the Trump lawyers, the FBI finally did the right thing, got a warrant, and raided Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s country club in Palm Beach.

There, FBI agents confiscated 20-odd boxes of documents, among which were over 100 marked secret and top secret, plus a boatload of unclassified files.

All of it was being held illegally. Under the law, when a President leaves office, his documents and emails, all of them, become the property of the US government and must be turned over to the National Archives.

Yes, a judge friendly to Trump wants a “special master” to review the confiscated documents. It was a ham-handed ruling that probably tanked her career. But the fact that Trump stole the material is not in question. He had no legitimate reason to be in possession of any government documents. He stole them.

For a year now, the conversation on the news has been about why Trump took the documents and what he did with them.

Did he sell secrets to the highest bidder? Was his goal to pay debts? Show off? Did classified information end up in the hands of foreign countries? Were people endangered or killed?

Critical questions all, and the answers eventually will surface. But the feds already have enough evidence to charge Trump with stealing the documents. And charge him they should.

Some of the documents confiscated at Mar-a-Lago were so highly classified that the FBI agents who found them needed additional security clearances to process them.

Which is why the Justice Department needs to charge and arrest Trump for theft. DOJ needs to get the process started now. Posthaste. ASAP.

After the filing of charges and the arrest, Trump no doubt would plead not guilty and post bail.

Whether he remains in the US or defects to Russia or Saudi Arabia, his trial should proceed. If he is convicted and sentenced, that’s justice being served, even if he flees and can’t be extradited.

At some point, depending on what their investigation uncovers, DOJ may bring additional charges. They probably will.

Lastly, if Trump’s Nazi goon fans object, well, we have police, national guard, and military forces that can deal with them as appropriate.

File the damn charges.

Read Full Post »

Time Does Not Bring Relief

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go, — so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

———

Always Marry An April Girl

By Ogden Nash

Frederic Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

Praise the spells and bless the charms,
I found April in my arms.
April golden, April cloudy,
Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy;
April soft in flowered languor,
April cold with sudden anger,
Ever changing, ever true —
I love April, I love you.

———

The Summer Day

By Mary Oliver

Mary Jane Oliver (1935-2019)

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean —
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

———

A Question

By Robert Frost

Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963)

A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth,
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth.

———

If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking

By Emily Dickinson

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830-1886)

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Read Full Post »

Landlords grow rich in their sleep without working, risking, or economizing.

John Stuart Mill

###

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

Stephen Covey

###

The moral crisis of our age has nothing to do with gay marriage or abortion; it is insider trading, obscene CEO pay, wage theft from ordinary workers, Wall Street’s continued gambling addiction, corporate payoffs to friendly politicians, and the billionaire takeover of our democracy.

Robert Reich

###

I am fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.

George McGovern

Mill

McGovern

Read Full Post »

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● According to the US government, the average dollar bill remains in circulation for 6.6 years.

● Despite its name, the Spanish Flu of 1918 had no connection to Spain. During World War I, Spain remained neutral and did not observe a media blackout. Thus, it reported freely on the pandemic, which led most of the world to associate Spain with the flu.

● The heart of an adult blue whale weighs 400 pounds.

● The only species of penguin found north of the equator is the Galápagos penguin of, you guessed it, the Galápagos Islands. In this case, however, “north” is a stretch; the islands literally straddle the equator.

● Cornell University in Ithica, New York, offers a degree in Enology and Viticulture, which is the study of wine and wine-making and the science of grape-growing.

● The flags of 29 countries feature the colors red, white, and blue.

● A desert is an ecosystem that receives less than 10 inches of precipitation annually. About 20 percent of the earth’s surface is classified as desert.

● Apple trees are native to Asia, and they were not found in North America until early European colonists brought them here. Soon, apple pie became a symbol of American culture, as opposed to native cultures and later immigrants, who cooked apples in other ways. Hence the expression “as American as apple pie.”

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

Fully Nazified

You may be familiar with the handful of countries — Denmark, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland — rated highest in terms of health, safety, quality of life, and satisfied citizens.

The US is somewhere down around 20th place. That’s because we excel in other categories: mass shootings, bankruptcies due to medical bills, rate of incarceration, and black people killed by police during traffic stops.

When I was young, I remember thinking I was lucky to have been born an American. I was grateful and proud.

But that was then. Today, the US is a flailing, bumbling embarrassment. Thanks to the right-wing loonies and the wild-eyed, fully-Nazified Republican Party, we’re in the worst shape since the Civil War.

The MAGA crowd learned from Donald Trump, the orange gasbag, that lying and cheating are acceptable options and essentially consequence-free. (According to the records of the Washington Post, Trump lied or made misleading statements 30,573 times while President.)

In this new reality, the efforts of Democrats to play by the rules becomes a waste of time. And we are screwed unless enough normal, decent, rational people start voting en masse for Democrats, and we overwhelm the nutjobs.

In the past, Republicans were, by nature, merely the most cautious and conservative of us. They always were guarded and awkwardly weird, but largely were in touch with their faculties.

Not any more. Conservatives today are fire-breathing extremists whose creepy religious overtones are getting more unsettling. The Republican Party has morphed into a terrorist organization.

These are the people who put Trump, one of the most wretched, crooked, despicable humans alive, in the White House.

Trump is owned by, and financially beholden to, Vladimir Putin. Trump caused the death of one million people by bungling the COVID pandemic. He sent white supremacist goons to storm the Capitol and attempted a literal coup to try to remain President. We all saw it on live television, remember?

Why he isn’t already in prison is a disgrace.

The other bad news lately is about the radicalized Supreme Court and the efforts of right-wing state legislatures to ban abortions. Even when medically necessary. Even when caused by rape or incest.

AND they want to ban women from crossing state lines to get the procedure. AND they want to outlaw contraception. AND they want to end gay marriage.

The bible-thumping, neo-Nazi minority of the country will make our lives miserable, but they won’t win. The rational majority won’t stand for it.

Abortions will continue. Contraception and gay people aren’t going anywhere. Those genies are out of the bottle, folks.

So, what are normal people to do?

Vote. Vote only for Democrats in every election from now on. Do NOT vote for a single Republican in any race, at any level, period, full stop.

If you vote Republican, you reject democracy and embrace fascism.

If you vote Republican, you are no friend of this country. You want to end it.

If you think I’m being alarmist, then let’s talk about the uniquely American epidemic of gun deaths and the right-wing’s depraved obsession with weapons.

When you enter the voting booth, remind yourself that Republicans believe a 10-year-old rape victim should be forced by the government to have the baby, and Democrats think the very idea is appalling, obscene, and monstrous.

It’s that simple.

Read Full Post »

ALBANY, NEW YORK — An employee of the New York Senate was arrested and fired from her job for her role in a protest after hundreds of live cockroaches were released in Albany City Court.

Police said the woman created a distraction so her associates could release the cockroaches, which were smuggled into the courtroom in plastic containers. They said the episode was in protest of arrests last month after a demonstration at the State Capitol about “rent issues.”

According to the officials, the woman began filming arraignment proceedings and refused to stop. While bailiffs pursued her and court officials were distracted, the cockroaches were released. Court was adjourned for the day, and exterminators were called in.

The woman was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, criminal contempt, and tampering with physical evidence. Police said more arrests may be made.

RIDGECREST, CALIFORNIA — A man in full ninja garb and wielding a sword attacked a group of Army trainees at a California airport, injuring two soldiers.

The attack occurred in the middle of the night when the perpetrator approached a lone sergeant and asked, “Do you know where my family is?” When the sergeant said he did not, the man drew his sword and inflicted a cut on the sergeant’s leg. The man then threw a rock through a hangar window, striking a second soldier in the head.

The sergeant ran into the hangar where the other soldiers were gathered and locked the door. As the assailant tried to break down the door, the soldiers called 911.

When police arrived, they tasered the ninja and took him into custody. He was arrested on numerous charges, including attempted homicide, assault, brandishing a weapon, and vandalism.

RUMBECK, SOUTH SUDAN — A local court sentenced a ram to three years in jail after the animal butted a 45-year-old woman in the chest and she died of her injuries.

A police spokesman said, “The ram is the one who perpetrated the crime, so it deserves to be arrested.”

In accordance with local law, the ram will be given to the family of the deceased woman after it serves its sentence. In addition, the owner of the ram was ordered to give five cows to the victim’s family.

Justice will be served in South Sudan.

Read Full Post »

Mystery Pig

File this story under “stranger than fiction.”

One recent Saturday, Jake and I went walking at Jefferson Middle School, where he could go off-leash and perform zoomies. Before long, we came upon an unoccupied pickup truck parked on the grass. Next to it was a wire pet cage, empty, door open.

And under the truck, cowering next to a wheel, was a piglet. It was a tiny thing, about six inches high and a foot long. A rope around its neck secured it to the truck.

Jake danced around and snuffled the piglet with great excitement, but didn’t hurt it, because, well, Jake loves all living things. The piglet seemed confused about being licked by a large animal.

Did the truck and the pig belong to someone working inside the school? Was the pig left outside because it wasn’t housebroken? A baffling scenario.

I tried to get Jake to continue our walk, but he wasn’t going anywhere. I allowed him a minute more of snuffling, then hooked up his leash and led him away. Poor Jake. So disappointed.

Why a piglet was tied to a truck next to an open pet cage on the lawn of the middle school that Saturday, I’ll never know.

Tuaregs

The Tuareg people of North Africa, nomads of the Sahara Desert since the 4th Century, are unique among Islamic ethnic groups.

Unlike in most Muslim societies, Tuareg women have high status. They control most of the property, and the lineage of families and clans is traced through the women.

Further, Tuareg men, not women, wear veils. When Tuareg men reach adulthood, they wear the tagelmust, a veil that reveals only the eyes, for the rest of their lives.

The Tuaregs believe the veils protect them from being possessed by evil spirits that enter through the nose and mouth. Why women don’t need the protection, I can’t say.

The concept of evil spirits and veils is, of course, preposterous nonsense. I rank it right up there with belief in a God who is omnipotent and benevolent, yet is okay with widespread starvation, disease, war, and suffering. That should strain anyone’s credulity.

Greek to Me

A while back, on a lark, I bought a copy of Georgia Outdoor News (GON), a monthly magazine about guns, hunting, fishing, and guns. I wanted some reading matter that was different, and GON certainly is that.

Frankly, I detest guns, and I strongly object to hunting and fishing. Guns are an abomination, and stalking and killing animals is making a special effort to be cruel. The articles and ads in GON confirm how callous and sadistic people can be toward other living things.

One particular tip that made me wince was a suggestion to fishermen: slice open your live bait so the blood in the water will attract fish.

But I digress. It was fascinating to get a peek at the world of hunters and fishermen as they talked to each other. For example, a “Fishing Reports” article gave tips on when and where to fish on various Georgia lakes. This is what one guide reported about West Point Lake near Columbus:

The herring population seems to have exploded this year. Try fishing riprap around bridges with spinnerbaits, small crankbaits and Zoom Super Flukes. Try an unweighted merthiolate Zoom Trick Worm or an unweighted Zlinky.

One other pattern is to look for fresh blowdowns with the leaves still on them. Try a Jerkbait or Zoom Super Fluke worked around the outer limbs. Lots of spotted bass are caught by casting Spot Remover heads loaded with Ultravibe Speed Craws.”

I know what riprap and blowdowns are, but otherwise, that’s just word salad. An experienced fisherman probably would get the message loud and clear.

I hope so. Better to use a Jerkbait or Zoom Super Fluke than to slice open your live bait.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »