Thursday, January 18, 2018

As the bed is, so the head is.

An acquaintance of mine who lived in some dire circumstances in her youth always makes her bed right upon rising. It's in part an act of gratitude for having a bed of her own, something that was not always the case. Also, she tells people, "As the bed is, so the head is," meaning that there is a direct connection to one's daily mental state and starting the day with an act of ordering chaos, knowing that the properly composed bed awaits upon completion of the day.


By nature I'm a slob, and if left to my own devices the bed would look like Oscar Madison's all the time.

How did he ever lure a date from his little black book to his room with a bed like that? He must have just gone to her place instead.

Never mind him; I am a slob about the bed, but my wife isn't -- or wasn't. She always insisted on making the bed right away. Once we got Dog 1, things changed. Now we had a critter who had to go potty NOW, especially when we got him as a little pup, and there was no time to waste on neatness. So, the bed would usually get made... at bedtime. It only got worse when Dog 2 joined the pack.

This stuff plays on my mind sometimes.

A few days ago I was looking in the mirror and saw a face that was not my own looking back. In this dream I was a different person, a bit younger and in good shape, and I and my surroundings were completely pin-neat. I'm sure this comes from reading too many comic books in my youth: I somehow realized that I had switched bodies with some other guy and in time it would be rectified. That made me a little sad, because this person clearly was much more together in every way than I, the slob, am. But what made me sadder is that I realized that in time my old habits, my way of thinking, would ruin this body as well, putting on weight, biting the nails, dressing in sweats all day when possible instead of the neat suit I had on.

After I woke up I considered that maybe the "my body is a temple" people had something. If I treated myself the way I would a borrowed car, I might take better care of myself. And that goes for my surroundings. I wouldn't leave books all over the place if I were staying at someone else's home. And I would definitely make sure the bed was made in the morning.

But, in the end, my habits are mine, and are thoroughly ingrained, and no matter where you go, there you are. I've turned over new leaves before, and next thing you know they had turned themselves back. I've tried to run away from me sometimes, but I always took me with me. So I can't say my dream got me to change the bad habits of a lifetime.

I will say that as I write this, the bed is made, and I did it myself! And that's all because I'm writing this, and I was darned if I would do it while the bed was mocking me with its hollow beddy laughter. So for today, the bed is neat, and I hope the head is too.

And if not, I guess I can blame the dogs for that as well.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mega billions!

I'll give you four reasons why Jeff Bezos is the richest man in history.

1) He not only saw a need that could be fulfilled on this new Internet thingie, but he did it well.

Henry Ford didn't invent the automobile, but his assembly line model of auto construction changed not only the car industry but the industry itself. Likewise, Bezos didn't invent Internet shopping, didn't even try to jump into a pricey end of the market (books? books have terrible profit margins and most inventory doesn't make much money at all, if any), but his method of order and delivery was revolutionary. It has remained the best in the business. Has Amazon ever suffered a major data hack? When was the last time they had an issue with fulfillment? What new product can you not find at or through Amazon that you can find elsewhere? (Not many, I am certain. Okay, no cars yet, but give it time.)

2) He thought big.

I thought Amazon was crazy for branching out from their bookish roots into toys and things. I would have been thrilled just to have the world's biggest online bookstore. I think small. He was thinking big from the get-go.

Now, that said, I must add that I think that he really should do more to promote my books. You know, help a brother out.

3) He has what you want (besides cars).

Larry Miller says that "You can get anything you want, anything in the world you want, from Amazon, except an actual amazon."

This kind.

Bezos made deals with all those little e-tailers whose sites were overlooked but who had things Amazon didn't want to bother stocking. You need part #A82981UU901 for your vacuum cleaner? If you go to Amazon, where they already have your credit and shipping information, you can order it in a blink. It will come from Big Red Bob's House O' Widgets in Tuscaloosa. You get your part, Big Red Bob sells it to you, and Amazon gets a cut, and that's fine -- it's a win-win-win.

But never mind stuff like that; what about everyday stuff that you want? Stuff like this?

My wife is a fan of the Centrum VitaMints multivitamin in Wintergreen flavor. Really, she'd play them if there was Vitamin Strat-O-matic. The product still exists as of this writing, but no local retailers have it. I've been to two grocery stores, a major drugstore, Walmart, and Target, and I can't find it anymore. They only carry the Cool Mint flavor. (Which comes from the Coolius spicata plant in the Mint family.) Amazon? No problem. Bought four bottles, got free shipping. Amazon makes it easy.

4) He's not nuts.

Despite the snide fictional billionaire name I used in my blog the other day, Bezos doesn't seem to be crazy. Yes, he's wealthy enough to offer you $50 million to shoot your friend on his secret private island (and if you've ever been shot on the secret private island, you know how much that hurts). But he wouldn't. The craziest thing he's done is buy the Washington Post. And he's bald as a bowling ball and hasn't gone all weird about it, like getting a freaky toupee or hair implants. As a man whose hair is always heading for the doors, I admire that. (To me, the most cutting remark Bush made about Gore during the 2000 campaign was an offhand comment: "The man dyes his hair. What does that tell you about him? He doesn't know who he is.")

So I don't think Bezos will turn up in a Girl with a Dragon Tattoo type situation where he's playing the Most Dangerous Game, bow-hunting blond cheerleaders on his secret private island. I really don't get that vibe from him.

He's been at it so long by now that I think if he were a wacko, there's be a lot of stories around, like there were about Steve Jobs. And being crazy is not usually good for your business, not even in a field that loves eccentricity.


Now, many of my friends, mostly on the left but not all, think that Bezos doesn't deserve all that money. I agree that no one deserves that kind of money, not even if they saved the planet from Martians. So what? No one deserves most of the horrible diseases; no kid deserves cancer. It's fun to call for the guillotine, but life's not fair and we know it. I'm sure Bezos does a lot of things with his dough I would find commendable, and many that would make me sore. So what?

One day, Jeff Bezos will die, and like all of us, I believe he will have to answer for his sins. Like other Silicon Valley types he may think he can cheat the Reaper by uploading his consciousness as software, maybe to Alexa's central system. It looks unlikely. The best he probably can do is create a machine that acts as if it thinks it is Jeff Bezos, and I don't see any good coming from that for any of us. He'll still be kaput.

So anyway, rich or poor, we all have to go to the weigh station eventually. St. Peter may ask why he didn't do more good with his money. If he stomped on little guys for the fun of it, or abused employees to squeeze an extra personal million out of them, that'll be a big problem. If there is testimony from the ghosts of blond cheerleaders with arrows stuck to them, the chute to the incinerator is waiting. And if Bezos is asked why he didn't do more to promote my books...

Well, I'd rather have spent my life as a trash-eating street bum than have been him at that point. I'm just saying.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Getting along.

[A slightly shorter version of this entry was originally posted on my old, defunct blog; unfortunately the problems noted in it don't seem to be in danger of changing or improving anytime soon.]

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day when we should reflect that our official culture, especially the universities, are dedicated to judging people on the color of their skin and, except for a couple of extra-double-naughty sins, not on the content of their character.

But I was pondering the most famous quote of that other King, the late Rodney King: "Why can't we all just get along?"

A lot of people made fun of that, but I never thought it worthy of mockery. Really, why can't we all just get along? Aren't we taught to do that from the time we're small? Why all the fighting?

You think about that when you're young, and you think about it again when you're older and you get tired of all the B.S. But I'm coming around to an idea that I think is not only realistic, but is one of the unique building blocks of American exceptionalism and the secret to her success: Fighting is not good, but it is necessary.

In the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote famously that a separation of powers in the government was necessary so that they would fight each other for power.

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

It's not a bug, it's a feature.

A quick skim though the twentieth century shows you the worst of what happens when men fight, but the most horrible examples started with men getting along. The powers of Europe fought World War I, for example, because each nation was united in its desire to fight, the old guard and the new progressives alike---the old guard from national pride, the new progressives as a means to remake the world.

Fascism got its name from the fasces, the bundle of rods that were weak individually but mighty together. Even if they were friendly, smiling fascists who would never lead their nation to war, they by definition required all those rods sticking together. So conformity had to be enforced. "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state." Beware any politician who says things will be sunshine and lollipops when we all pull together (i.e., do things his way), because the only way to get us all pulling together is to engineer strong and evil consequences for those who don't.

America's founders said it would be better to have an arena where everyone can fight, and factions form as needed to stop any person or group from taking over and killing the rest.

So we should strive for peace, for getting along, but be aware that human beings are not made that way, at least not in this world. 

Jesus said (in John 14:27, KJV) "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." The world's peace is at best fragile, or requires placating evil, but Jesus tells us his peace is of a different and better order. It is our best hope until men become like angels or someone puts the angels in charge.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Mud and ice.

Boy, the weather changed fast.

After weeks of very cold temperatures and snow that refused to go anywhere, we hit a record high on Friday. Counting windchill, it was more than a 70 degree swing in three days. Parts of the state, like Syracuse, hit records for the date -- in their case, 62 degrees. It certainly felt like a record high here, but it wasn't like you could run outside and sunbathe -- it rained like crazy all damn day.

I think I spent the bulk of the day drying off dogs. My wife was at it with the good ol' Swiffer SteamBoost, but the mud and water splashed in the hall every time some puppy needed to visit the great outdoors. The snow was melting at the fastest pace I have ever seen. This was tragic for the big dog, Tralfaz, my fuzzy chum who, if forced to choose between me and snow, might very well pick snow. Our last outing Friday night we visited his domain, the snow fort at the end of the driveway created by our plow guy. It had been reduced to a single manhole-size splotch of snow. Tralfaz laid on it, covering it almost entirely, rolled on it, tried to bury his face in it as he does with snow. It was the saddest thing I have seen in a long time. By Saturday even that was gone.

Saturday morning I took baby dog Nipper (90+ pounds of fun & muscle) out to the backyard for his early morning romp, and I had to cut it short. The yard had gotten so muddy it was sucking the shoes right off my feet. No kidding; and I was wearing a pair of rubber moc boots Mrs. Claus bought me for Christmas, or I probably would have had mud inside my socks. It made me think of this meme:

No kidding; thanks to TV we kind of thought quicksand could pop up anywhere -- in the woods, by a pond, in the supermarket parking lot, in aisle 5, you name it.

It also brought back a memory of the time in my youth when I drove three of my friends in my dad's economy car to play toss the ol' football around in the park. We got in a pickup touch football game with some other guys. After a while we discovered that, not only had the park been subject to at least a week of soaking rain, but the rain had also caused the sewers to back up, resulting in that odd odor that got stronger as the game progressed. I don't remember if we won, but I do remember being in that small car with three other big, filthy, sweaty guys, smelling of sewer. I had to clean out the car and then hose myself off before I could even get in the house. It was a little more than 50 degrees, not the kind of weather you want to be running cold water on yourself off the backyard hose in your underwear. I'm not sure my mother didn't toss my jeans directly in a Hefty bag on the curb.

So when I told Nipper it was time to go in, it was time to go in.

Later on Saturday the rain cleared off, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped like a stone. It fell below freezing by eight in the morning; it was 19 by six p.m. Fortunately there was not a lot of water on the streets to freeze, but the yard, such a sodden mess, became icy enough to send out young Wayne Gretzky to practice hockey. This morning when I took out the boys it was 9. Glad I had my long thermal underpants on.

It's been such an odd couple of days that it seems to have shut up the climate deniers and the climate cultists all at the same time. No matter where you are on such things, if it makes for a peaceful and quiet Sunday, it is a good thing.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Would you....

This meme and ones like it have been making the rounds, and I thought I'd share my thoughts, or whatever they are.

Fifty million dollars to shoot your best friend in the leg. Seems tempting, especially if you are the kind of person who is not that close to your friends.

Most of the responses I saw to this -- and that's what I get for looking at comments sections -- were along the lines of either "I'll split the money with my friend and he can afford the best doctors" or the more generous "After we get my friend the best medical treatment we'll split the rest."

Some people try to alter the implied context here, assuming perhaps they are dealing with magical fairies who will have to abide by every word of the agreement:

"I'll shoot him... with a BB gun!"
"I'll shoot him... with a Kodak!"
"I'll shoot him... underwater!"
"I'll name a serial killer as my best friend and I won't care if he dies!"
"I'll name the person with all the money my new best friend!"

These people would be paid off in Monopoly money.

To play the game we have to take it on its face value -- say for some reason an evil and eccentric billionaire (let's call him Beff Jezos) decides it would be fun to see if he can bribe people to use deadly force on their closest friends, maybe to prove people will do anything to get rich. We will assume that he's good for the money and will pay off. The meme doesn't specify the type of gun, although the image shows a rifle; clearly it has to be something of a type and caliber that would be seriously dangerous. Further, we can stipulate that the shot would have to be taken at a reasonable distance; people trying to cause a flesh wound from right next to the friend are essentially playing Operation: The Wacky Doctors Game, and again would be paid in toy money.

Most of those writing comments were willing to accept these conditions, which surprised me. Either they knew nothing about guns except what they'd seen on shows like 24, or they had handled firearms and figured they were good shots and could avoid hitting anything serious.

The problem is, with a leg, everything can be serious.

Jack Bauer would plug a guy in the leg to stop him without killing him, but real-life cops know that the word for shooting a guy in a leg is: Kill. Yes, they train to hit the central body mass and not the legs, but that doesn't mean legs are made of Play-Doh. A shot to the femoral artery can be deadly in minutes.

Okay, so you're a great shot. Mr. Jezos ("Beffy" to his pals) hands you a .30-06 and stands your best friend at the 50-yard line and tells you to shoot your BFF in the leg -- take as many shots as you need. And you're thinking, Don't hit the femoral artery or Bill/Joe/Alice/Jezebel could bleed out before help arrives! (Jezos is not paying to have medical staff on hand -- that's not part of the deal.) Here's the location of the femoral artery:

Thanks to Kenhub for the art.

Yeah, I'm sure you'll totally miss it, no problem. And you won't hit the bone either, which could slice the artery, although the femur is the largest bone in the body. And if somehow you cut that huge artery but manage to save your friend's life, you can help him or her pick out a really expensive prosthetic.

And then there are infections, chronic pain, and other fun effects of taking a bullet in the leg. If people survive the injury they may get better, but they surely don't all get well.

For me, what it comes down to is: Why are you letting someone pay you to do something reprehensible? We all do things we don't want to do for money -- that's why it's called work and not play. But we would say we wouldn't want to do anything cruel or evil for money. And here were all these people ready to do just that. How much more would Beffy have to pay for you to not tell your friend about the deal until after the shooting? How much extra to shoot your friend in the arm, too? How much more to shoot your mom in her leg? To shoot a stranger in the head? At this point it's just negotiating the details.

It's fun to think of ways to spend fifty million dollars, but that's the wrong end of the equation. Never let anyone pay you to do something revolting. It does things to us. In this example, the shooter's injuries may wind up more painful and long-lasting than the injuries of the victim.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Fred don’t play by your rules.

I'm my own man.

I don't play by the rules.

You Jell-O–faced bouncy-house-jumpin' nail-paintin' weasels may play by the rules.

Not me.

I  leave the toaster oven plugged in when I'm not using it.

I don't care 'bout no user manual. 

That's the kinda man I am.

I microwave foil.

Suck it, CPSC.

I don't floss.

I can't be bought.

Well, maybe I can be bought.

But it'll cost ya.

They do it all the time at work.

But I don't follow no rules.

I don't wash my hands after using the bathroom---although I'm an employee.

Yeah, you heard me.

I haven't put enough money away for six months' worth of expenses in case of economic hardship.

That's one of your rules.

I don't stretch out before I run.

And I run in wingtips.

And a leisure suit.

I do it my way.

I don't eat an appropriate amount of fiber daily for a man my age.

Who don't play dat?

Freddy don't play dat.

You're damn right.

I don't signal my turns.

Okay, okay, I do signal my turns.

But only because I want to.

Even when no other drivers are around.

And I don't change the vacuum cleaner bag when full.

In. Your. Face.


I'm Freddy.

Freddy don't follow no rules.

I before E except after C?


See what I did there?

Keep your rules, man.

Freddie is as Freddie does. 

See? See how I spelled Freddie with an ie instead of a y this time?

Because I wanted to.

I don't do nothin' 'less I want to.

Like use a double negative.

Eat it, suckah.

Yeah, eat it. It's a delicious orange cranberry scone and I spent all morning baking it. 


Okay, that's enough. 

Because I said so.