Archive for January, 2022

King of the Forest

I think, if I was “King of the Forest” (alá the Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz), I’d much rather people were against me, than disappointed with me.  I mean, how deflating to discover that the vast majority of voters (not merely just citizens, which any Tom, Dick or Harry can claim, apparently) just shook their heads and said “too bad, so sad.”  Wouldn’t it be better to have vast swathes of the populace voice a heartfelt opinion – pro or con – than to have them heave a collective heavy sigh and shake their heads in disappointment?

Wouldn’t an epithet of “At least he tried” be better than “When is he going to show up?”  I do think so, but never having been within a stone’s throw of the White House, all I can do is try to imagine what it must feel like.

However, Joe Biden continues the Jimmy Carter legacy (Full Disclosure: I did vote for the peanut farmer) of “what a waste.”  (Yes, the same can be said of Donald Trump; but I don’t think anybody wondered if he had seen the football after the kickoff.)

How many people and how many millions of dollars are invested in what is arguably the “Top Job” of this country?  All of that investment in Joe Biden has been tossed into the wind and gone forever (unlike the Edsel, Joe will never be a good investment).  True enough: like Donald Trump, Joe stopped something dead in its tracks.  But where do we go from here?  Not only did the Demos manage to lose to someone who had never been elected to any public office, but they got elected an anybody who couldn’t possibly lose to Donald Trump (could Hillary have beat Donald after his four years in office?  Probably.)

But after a year of Joe listening to “who are those people?,” We The People have the rather uncomfortable prospect of having not a clue where we go from here.  One can only applaud Stacey Adams for having a “scheduling conflict” when Joe came to town* (would you ever – I mean ever – have a “scheduling conflict” if the President of the United States dropped into your little (and I do mean little) corner of the world?  That absolutely defies imagination. Kudos to Stacey, if not for elegance, then for chutzpah, or should that be integrity?).

“John, we hardly knew ya,” was said of JFK when his life, both personal and political, was cut short.  No one should ever hope for such end for anybody.  But, Joe, who are are you?  I mean, I would really love to love you.  Really.  Quite some time ago, I was a card-carrying Democrat, precinct committee-man, active campaigner for the likes of Morris Udall (I still haven’t washed that hand).  Now, I can’t think of Democrats without thinking of used-car salesmen, and putting my hand on my wallet.  Thanks to the Demos I am proudly deplorable.

Yes, I do think Donald Trump could have gotten re-elected; but he got in his own way – he didn’t know when to shut his mouth.  No, I do not think Joe can be re-elected for, ironically, he doesn’t know when to shut his mouth.  When will people in positions of power learn to exploit that position, instead of squander it?  Is there any better job than being the former president?  The two-term former president?  A one-term former president probably gets the same bennies, but he somehow failed at a gimme: how can you screw-up so badly that the most common voter learned to hate you?  Success Joe, is not just one term as prez; it is two terms – or does that math escape you?

If Joe Biden is on the next ballot, it would be only out of respect.  His current Veep should be investing in her retirement portfolio – she is most definitely a lost cause.  Between the headless Demos and the non-existent Republicans, I can only thank my lucky stars that I am not invested in either political party.  At this point in time, both are losers.  Perhaps the Demos can take a step back and ask, “What do you propose?” of the Republicans.  Sadly, the Republicans can only reply, “We asked you first.”

And we all lose.

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* Gerald Baker, “Biden Goes for Broke. He’s Broke. Now What?”, Jan. 17, 2022 12:59 pm ET

We’ve Arrived

I hesitate to say “we’ve arrived” if only because it implies that the game is over.  OT (over-time), additional innings, whatever, the obese, socially correct female has sung her last note.  Perhaps it’s only because I am not just a river in Egypt that I refuse to believe The Story (as opposed to “his-story”) is absolutely, well, history.  Wishful thinking?  I think not.

But I do believe we have arrived at an age where we have access to a cacophony of ideas.  Sadly, we are indeed taking advantage of this deluge to conclude that we have no idea what to conclude, and the best strategy is to bury our heads in the sand (apologies to the ostrich).  Or, maybe congratulations are in order?

Some would say that we have discovered that “experts disagree.”  Hello?  They have always disagreed.  The only thing that has changed is that we are now aware of the lack of unity.  Or, we have indeed matured to the point of realizing that one hundred people have one hundred opinions.  This is not newsworthy – it has been a constant for millennia (or eons, or ever since the first human had a thought (there’s something in The Wizard of OZ on this – go ask the Scarecrow, not the White Rabbit – or should that be the “albino bunny”?).

Yes, technology has given us awareness.  Maybe this “new” data will give us knowledge that could lead to wisdom?  I think I’d rather invest in Bitcoin.

There is a cartoon out there (creator unknown, enlighten me) that shows in three panels the state we now find ourselves in.  The first panel shows an apparently random number of dots and is labeled “data.”  The second panel shows the same set of random dots connected and is labelled “knowlege.”   The third shows the dots connected to show a cartoon of a cat and is labeled “creativity.”  (And of course my short search of the internet does not bring us this particular cartoon.)

A recent opinion piece in a trustworthy newspaper by an “anarchist” accurately points out that many people defer to the opinion of “experts.”  We have a long and easily accessible history of the great unwashed masses deciding that smiling and nodding at the promulgations of the experts was the easiest way to get thru life.  You could either “toe the line” and enjoy NIMBY (Not in My Backyard), or you could be forced into a cattle car (a cautionary tale right there) and sent to a gulag (gotta thank the Soviet Union for bringing that term into the lexicon).

Maybe the internet is indeed something of a solution (if not savior).  Usta be all we could rely on was the newspaper delivered to our front door every morning, or the evening news on the telly.  Now, just turning on your laptop brings you the headlines of hundreds of news outlets and you are confronted with who to not click into oblivion.  So, you narrow your exposure to names you know, some unknown to your parents – tho none recognizable to your parents.

My father, a newspaperman all of his adult, professional life, always read the sports page first (I have never), once asked me if I read a newspaper.  Unthinking (as usual) I said no.  He was deflated if not horribly disappointed.  In fact, in his world, his world was pretty much confined to a few paper newspapers; in my internet world, I can very quickly scan a half-a-dozen or more at the touch of a finger.  He formed his world around one, or two, specific newspapers, and one evening news show.  I am not as limited (and paradoxically, probably not as wise).

But the point is, if any term should now be thrown into the dustbin, “expert” ought to be the first.  Not that there never have been experts, there have been.  It is that there are now so many.  And, as the essay referred to above implies, even the so-called experts rely on other so-called experts.

The “patron saint” (if you will) of an informed populace could be Paul Revere.  Without the endorsement of a government broadside, or an underground newspaper, he took it upon himself  to spread the word that a menace was approaching (and his – unnamed – horse: “You want to go out riding at this hour, yelling at the top of your lungs, waking people with very big rifles, to do what?”).

I offer that the internet is our wakeup call.  COVID is a warning – but so far not succeeding – that our slovenly (“Twinkie”) lifestyle is not sustainable (on a very, very personal level).  In the USA we have a government (at all levels) that is working very hard to take decisions away from the individual – sounds like the “divine right of kings” to me.  If you are ignorant now, it is because you don’t care.  My father’s generation did not have the luxury of accessing the hundreds of opinions of thousands of experts, we do.  They had the luxury of being surprised – we don’t.

You all know the story of the frog in the pot on the stove.  We are the frog, and it is getting warm. 

Now, add COVID.

Today I learned that being an old fart is a co-morbidity when it comes to listing cause of death due to COVID.  So, why are “we” vaccinating the under-20s?  Sorry, I digress.

CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walenski has announced that people with 4 co-mobidities are more likely to die than those without.  Oh, I’m sorry: die from COVID-plus-something – not “just” COVID?  Well, I’m no doctor (medical or otherwise), and not a “health-care professional” (though the adjustors in my insurance carrier may beg to differ), but this “divine revelation” is not news to me.

There have been countless (and I do mean countless – like to infinity and beyond) opinions as to why COVID has happened.  Ignoring the opinions that have seemingly changed faster than the wind in the past two years, perhaps COVID is just a wake up call for those who aren’t saddled with “co-mobidities.”

Yes, I said not inflicted with co-morbidities.  Years and years ago, I picked up a book titled: What to Eat if You Have Heart Disease*.  Several decades later, I still don’t have heart disease; but I have often wondered why a person would wait until sick with a “co-mobidity” before adjusting their life style.  Makes me think of the game to see how close you can stand to a speeding train.

The other day, I was in a parking lot walking to my car when I passed a man going into the store.  He was probably 50-something, if not older (an old fart like me).  His mask was down, keeping his chin warm while he smoked a cigarette.  It is hard for me to imagine a more incongruous picture.  COVID-only has always been touted as a respiratory disease.  In the two years we have denied COVID we have decided that it can affect other organs as well; but it is still inhaled and apparently not transmitted by doorknobs (and a shame, too: I’d rather wear gloves than a mask).

Now, COVID-OMICRON is (Bad News) much more easily transmitted than its predecessor (“Alpha,” I think – this is certainly sounding Biblical (don’t tell the woke – no wait: that was “Alpha and Omega” – sorry).  But (Good News), less likely to stick you in ICU.  So, let’s do triple shots (no, not tequila) and double mask (if I am wearing two masks and you are wearing two masks, what does that make us?  Besides fall-down, pee-in-your-pants ludicrous?).

Oh yeah, back to not having “co-morbities” (maybe less Biblical and more Greek Tragedy?). I make this assertion because if you have one of them things, you are very nearly dead already, so why change? (Kind of like substituting margarine for butter after your double-bypass.)

There was a statement made a few years ago that you can’t be healthy if you’re fat (sorry: I have no clue as to who coined this phrase – suggestions welcome).  And looking purely at statistical records (observations – not interpretations or Wild ___ Guesses (WAGs) the number of cases is “trending” up (I’d like to say “exploding” or “increasing exponentially” – but being alarmist on this subject is the job of Chicken Little).  The Harvard School of Public Health declares: “Today, nationwide, roughly two out of three U.S. adults are overweight or obese (69 percent) and one out of three is obese (36 percent).” From 15 percent in 1990**. The other “co-morbidities” are less easily observed and are controversial (e.g., high blood pressure seems to have decreased in the most recent years).  However, they all contribute to heart disease.

Now, add COVID.

As they say: “Life is short, death is sure, and Eternity is a long time.”

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*Keane, Maureen and Chace, Daniella, Contemporary Books, 1998

** https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/an-epidemic-of-obesity/ from, Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Ogden CL. Prevalence of obesity and trends in the distribution of body mass index among US adults, 1999-2010. JAMA. 2012;307:491-7.

Kármán vs Mendoza

I first ran into the “Mendoza Line” when a co-worker commented on a customer’s inability to perform the simplest of acts.  Although the origin of the term varies, since my co-worker was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, I choose to associate it with Mario Mendoza of the 1979 Seattle Mariners (see also https://www.mlb.com/glossary/idioms/mendoza-line).  It is probably a paradox since Mario was able to remain on the roster for his defensive capabilities, though his hitting (offense) was extremely poor.  Nevertheless, the internet (that fount of all knowledge – sorry Encyclopedia Britannica) regards the Mendoza Line as an absolute minimum measure of performance.

As commercial “space” travel has become a reality, defining what is space and not Earth has given the work of Hungarian Theodore von Kármán a new life (he died in 1963).  However, if one gets above this line, is one an “astronaut/cosmonaut”?  As truly amazing as this feat is (for a variety of reasons), what’s the difference between technical competence/contribution and sightseeing?  Does it matter?

Purdue University, self-proclaimed “cradle of astronauts” (Neil Armstrong, et al.), has decided that to be an astronaut you have to be there doing something besides paying for bragging rights (compare Audrey Powers to William Shatner).  In any event, rising above the Kármán Line seems to be a maximum measure of performance (unless setting a record in the International Space Station means something – if so then maybe we need a new label: the “Scott Kelly Line” of 340 days in space?).

As we enter this second year of “COVID Purgatory” (for some, “hell”; but for no one, “heaven”), we continue our downward spiral below Mr Mendoza:  seemingly racing to the bottom.

Recent polls, and an essay in the Wall Street Journal (see “Is Climate Change in Your Problem Top 10?,” Andy Kessler, WSJ, 2022 January 9) reveal what appears to be a statistically significant abyss between the two predominant political camps and the “Top 10 Problems” this country is struggling with.  It is not so much whose list is right and whose is wrong but that the two lists are so incredibly different.  Take away all the political posturing and what emerges is that one school is of the opinion that “immigration” is Number One, and the other school votes for “COVID-19”.

I guess they agree on one thing: climate change is not something of concern.  Not the cause.  Not the effect.  Not the remedy.  Maybe it’s like being wholly interested in whether or not it will rain today, and not the fact that it’s been raining “forever” (or that reservoirs are drying up – globally)?

As my daughter put it just before Christmas, the weather is “wonky.”  Indiana was experiencing weather (warm, into the 50s, and sunny) that could make those of us in the PacNW wish we ever had any days like that (we have been under a “Flood Watch/Advisory” for about three weeks now – yes, I had to go out and buy a sump pump (you don’t want details).  The point is, while politics may be local, the weather everywhere is just plain “wonky.”  And it is climate that makes the weather.

Back in the 90s I was living in Stavanger, Norway.  A friend, who had grown up in Oslo could remember when fishing boats got caught in the ice and it was possible to skate out to them and provide food, fuel.  In just one lifetime, we have all seen – if we chose to – a very “wonky” climate.  Trouble is, our so-called “leaders” choose not to (“panem et circenses” indeed).  Rather than setting ourselves to the task of adapting, we have chosen to wring our hands (gnashing of teeth and rending of garments optional).

Just because the dinosaurs lived for millions of years does not mean that any person breathing now will see 2100.  Maybe Pogo was right? 

[sorry about the typo: “who’s” vs “whose”]