Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Fickle Finger of Fate: Some People's Luck is Off the Charts!

Imagine you're a passenger in a plane whose pilots are both sleeping while cruising at 37,000 feet. Not a pretty picture. Could such a thing even happen?

The answer is yes.

Two pilots fell asleep and missed their landing at a flight from Dudan to Ethiopia on August 15th. The ground crew was having trouble making contact as the plane soared past its destination. If not for an alarm that went off as the plane continued to go in the wrong direction everybody on board would have died a fiery death.

As it turned out the pilots woke and turned the plane around back to its original destination.

For everyone aboard it was a remarkably lucky ending. 

Talk about lucky...

One couple in Pennsylvania really defied the odds when they discovered a rare purple pearl in one of their clams.

            Photo courtesy of Scott Overland

The quahog clam they found is listed as exceptionally rare according to the International Gem Society. Its estimated value is around $16,000. Get this, they almost sent it back because the clam had a bell-pepper garnish which the couple had asked the restaurant to leave off. But they didn't, and the rest is one for the lucky files.

Despite staggering odds

I'd be remiss not to mention the lone winner of the July 27 Mega Millions $1.28 billion prize who's living somewhere in Illinois with the third largest lottery prize in American history.

As a sports card collector I was green with envy when I heard about a man from Tennessee who went into his aunt's attic and discovered baseball cards from the 50s and 60s. They turned out to be worth over a million dollars!

It's hard to get any luckier than this...

Bill Morgan was declared clinically dead in 1999 after his body reacted poorly to medication. Twelve days later, he came out of his coma in seeming perfect health.

But that's not all.

Afterwards, he proposed to his girlfriend, and won a $23,000 car thanks to a scratch-off ticket. For good measure he then won $350,000 from a second scratch-off ticket.

Finally, how the fickle finger of fate... 

touched me once while serving as a combat engineer in Vietnam (1970). One of my duties was to sweep for mines. One particularly hot and humid afternoon I wasn't as alert as I should have been when my sergeant suddenly shouted FREEZE!

I did. He was pointing at my right boot. There was a slight indentation in the ground and metal gleamed in the intense sun. I had stepped on a mine! Warm piss slid down my leg as I waited for an explosion that thankfully never came.

My sergeant probed around it carefully as the rest of the squad got off the road and tried to make themselves small. The tanks backed up.

Long story short; it was an anti-tank pressure mine and I wasn't heavy enough to set it off. When I stepped off of it, I exhaled deeply and realized I was one lucky guy.

So, that's about enough luck for today.

As it stands, you can't seek luck, it has to find you.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Feeling Out of It? Here's What's Trending

          I'm glad you could make it today. 

Here's some trendy stuff that's a landscape snapshot of what's currently popular in America.

** Barkitecture is hitting the mainstream. Pet parents are building out cozy corners of their space (or even separate rooms) for their furry companions. See for yourself and Google "Luxury cat rooms" or check Pinterest for "Dog beds made from furniture).

** The latest evolution for women's bras, the Cuup has gotten a lot of attention from women for its direct-to-consumer lingerie line. They offer cup sizes from A to H and band sizes from 30 to 38. Get 'em while their hot!

** Rihanna appeared in public wearing giant boots (I think they're called nosebleed platforms) on her way to a popular New York restaurant last night.

** Under crazy science a group of scientists have decided to resurrect an animal that's been extinct for 100 years - the Tasmanian tiger. Why? Who the hell knows? Who cares?

** Moon Parties - Everyone is grooving to the moon nowadays. We're getting ready to send another rocket to the moon, and moon-themed parties are trendy according to Pinterest.

** Lab grown diamond rings are popular. Actually, just about anything grown in labs is popular. 

** Multiversal madness - Alternate realities are a big thing (just ask Kellyanne Conway or Trump) and parallel worlds have kicked-ass in the mainstream cinema circuit this year. My favorite thus far is Doctor Strange: in the Multiverse of Madness.

In Politics 

** If you're a Republican the trendy thing to do is kiss Trump's ass and ring.

** If you're a Democrat the trendy thing to do is save our democracy and protect the republic from domestic terrorists.

** The current trend for GOP lawmakers is to attack the FBI and the Department of Justice because they served a legal search warrant on Trump's lair at Mar-a-Lago.

Trending around my house

** Our polydactyl cat Ernie has been chasing our other cat Tom every time he heads for the door lately - for no apparent reason other than he can be an asshole!

** I've been in a good place for a while now and am delighted to see the viewership of this blog has been growing daily this month. Thank you for stopping by. If this is you first time, please give it another try.

As it stands, A plus tard (hint, it's French)

Thursday, August 18, 2022

When Lightning Strikes!

It's said you are four times more likely to get a perfect score on your SAT than getting struck by lightning and dying.

The National Weather Service reassuringly reports that there are roughly 40 million lightning bolts touching down every year across America and the odds of being struck are one in a million.

Not bad. Unless you're the one percenter.

The most recent report of lightning strikes killing someone was in Washington DC earlier this month. Four people were standing underneath a tree in Lafayette Park on August 4th when they were struck by six bolts within half a second!

Three people died and the survivor, Amber Escudero-Kontostathis, suffers with nerve damage from her waist down leaving her with no feeling in her legs.

Amber's case was unique because doctors told her they had never seen a patient survive what she endured.

Like the old saying goes, "If it's not your time to go, you'll know."  

Last year two states - Texas and Florida - had the highest count of lightning strikes. You might want to avoid them to improve your chances of never being struck by a bolt of lightning.

If you want to learn more about lightning strikes, go here.

Quotes About Lightning

** "When lightning strikes at sea, why don't all the fish die?" - Anthony Doerr

** "Every dark cloud has a silver lining, but lightning kills hundreds of people on the planet each year who try to find out." - E.L. Kersten

** "Lightning hides the color of night." - Munia Khan

Final Thoughts

When my wife and three boys and I lived in 29 Palms, California we all enjoyed watching the lightning shows that were spectacular at times. They were common in the high desert and most people had the presence of mind not to be running around during one of those shows.

Like the first human who saw lightning, we are still thrilled and terrified by the display of raw energy and power from the skies. 

As it stands, thanks for stopping by, and I'll be looking for you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Let's Talk About Dealing With 'The Other' in Our Lives

At one time or another we've all had to deal with situations in our lives where we were told that "the others" are to be feared.

Some examples

** Many Caucasians fear others with dark skin. 

** Some religions instruct their flock to fear any other religious teachings than theirs, declaring all of the other church's believers' heretics and sinners destined for hell. 

** In almost all cases the other side of an argument or political ideology is demonized as a matter of course.

** The very idea of being outside the societal norm makes some individuals the other because they don't conform with the majority's viewpoint of what's acceptable. 

** In war the other side is unmistakably the enemy. They are to be feared and killed upon contact. No ambiguity there.

3 Ways of Dealing with the other 

I've discovered various ways of handling situations involving the other side of anything. You may employ the same techniques already, but if not read on...

1. Don't argue with an idiot about anything. MAGA world inhabitants live in an alternate universe and will attack outsiders.

2. Attempt to keep respect for another view (even if you think their wrong) when discussing issues. Listen to the other side before reacting to it.

3. Be calm while stating your side to an issue. Bulging eyes and a red face seldom promotes compromise and understanding of your point of view.

Moving on...

Guess what? There was a movie made in 1972 called The Other. It was a psychological thriller directed by Robert Mulligan. 

I suppose a 2001 movie titled The Others qualifies too. It starred Nicole Kidman and was about a woman who lives in her darkened old family house with her two photosensitive children and becomes convinced the house is haunted.

Had enough for today?

I'll wrap it up with an invitation to visit again tomorrow. Auf Wiedersehen!

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Should There Be an Age Limit for Politicians and Judges?

Lately folks have been talking about President Joe Biden being too old (he's 80 years old) to run for a second term in the Oval Office.

The chatter in the corridors of Congress is the party should be looking for new blood.

Rumors continue to swirl around the country that Trump is running for re-election in 2024. He's 76 years old. Not exactly a spring chicken.

Then I read that Italian cinema icon Gina Lollobrigida is running for a Senate seat in her country's elections next month. By the way, she's 95 years old!

All of which leads me to ask if we should put age limitations on politicians and judges? I've got to watch out here that it doesn't appear like I'm espousing age discrimination (full disclosure I'm going on 72 in November).

I'm honestly wondering just when a person's thought process starts getting murky. Does it automatically happen when we turn 65? Is it safe to say people's mental acuity slips after entering their 70s?

As far as judges go

I strongly feel that judges (especially Supreme Court justices) should retire when they turn 80 years old. Logic says that their mental agility and memories dim - some at a faster rate than others - after achieving that milestone.

As far as politicians go

Wouldn't it be nice if Congress was no longer a retirement home for old politicians?

After considerable thought I think the retirement age for Congressional politicians should be 60 years old. 

According to the Congressional Research Service, the current average age of senators is 64.3 years - the oldest in history. Last year West Virginia's Robert Byrd died at 92 after funneling an estimated $10 billion to his constituents during his 51 years in the Senate.

Another option to having a senior center for lawmakers in the Senate is term limits. A person could only serve for three terms and then they would have to move on with their lives.

Quotes about Age

** "My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She is ninety-seven now, and we don't know where the heck she is!" -Ellen DeGeneres

** "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." -Mark Twain

**"As you get older, you don't get wiser. You get irritable." - Doris Lessing

Final thoughts

What do you think about putting age limits on politicians and judges? Is it a crazy idea? Should I just be quiet and find someone to play a game of checkers with?

As it Stands, don't be shy, drop on by, anytime.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Oh Baby! Where Did You Get That Name?

Remember when rock star Frank Zappa named his oldest daughter Moon Unit? 

Her siblings were named Dweezil and Diva Muffin.

What kind of parent would do that to a kid?

The answer is a lot of parents give their offspring unusual names... just because. 

Elon Musk and Grimes raised plenty of eyebrows when they named their first child (a boy) X AE A-Xii (known as X). To top that they named their next child (a girl) Exa Dark.

One of the wackiest names I've seen recently is Hellzel. The mother liked the name Hazel while the father was a biker and wanted to work in the Hells Angels. The result was Hellzel.

Only in the 70s... a Wisconsin baby was born with the name Marijuana. The now teacher and mom told reporters that she has never touched cannabis.

How about Fifi Trixibelle? She was named after Bob Geldof's aunt Fifa, with Trixibelle because his wife Paula Yates wanted a "Belle" in the family.

One of my favorite names is Kal-El because it's Superman's Kryptonian birth name. It doesn't take Sherlock Holms to guess that the parents were big fans of Superman.

Here's a name that was listed in the top 1,000 for boys' names in 1999... Semaj. It's simply James written backwards. 

Back in 1884 there were at least five male babies registered in the U.S. named Man. I can't imagine the challenges these boys ran into during their lives.

If you think naming a kid Almond is nuts, it's worth noting it was actually a common name in the late 19th Century. Experts say it was a variation of the popular name Almund, itself a contraction of Adalmund.

Look at the name Sylvester Stallone chose for his eldest son... Sage Moonblood! What else would you expect the star of Rambo and Rocky to pick?

How crazy is this? During the pandemic one set of parents named their twins Covid and Corona!

A lot of parents in the 1990s thought that the start of the alphabet - ABCDE - made a great name. There were more than 300 people (mostly girls for some reason) bearing the name by the start of the 2000s.

Finally, my wife and I wanted to name our second son Sundance, but our family thought we were crazy and would stigmatize the poor child for the rest of his life. We finally relented and named him Elijah and settled with Sundance as his middle name.

I hope you enjoy reading this post. As it Stands, I'll meet you here again tomorrow.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Are People Capable of Changing Their Thinking if Presented with Facts?

There're people in our society so hard-wired against reality that they literally live in a different universe than you and I do.

I suspect you already knew that.

You also probably know these individuals are always seeking confirmation bias sources to boost their beliefs. For the sake of illustration take the hard right media platforms like Fox News and Newsmax that promote conspiracies and lies for ratings.

My question today is two-fold; have you ever met or known someone who did a complete turnaround after living for years in an alternate universe - and do you think it's even possible?

Over the course of seven decades, I've met some real "characters" that were both harmless and violent. Some were and are relatives. I have cousins living in rural areas back east who were raised like free range chickens and never went to school. The kicker?

They're Trump cult followers. It's pure folly trying to convince them that their idol is the worst president this country has ever had and is a current threat to democracy and the rule of law. They live in a bubble like most of the Trump supporters I've met do.

I read in some medical journal that facts can be too threatening for some people, and they take them as personal insults. Their very existence is a declaration of war for someone with convoluted beliefs.

From what I've seen in life and read the possibility of changing a person's world view is slim to none. The reasons are legion and too complex for me to outline here in limited space.

Does that mean you shouldn't try to correct someone when they tell a lie? No. Truth is what tethers us to reality. We just shouldn't realistically expect it to have any kind of impact on someone living in an alternate world.

Blog Break Until Presidential Election is Over

I finally hit the wall today. I can't think of what to say about all of the madness going on in this country right now. I'm a writer...