Thursday, March 25, 2021

Enlightening Things About Lightning Strikes

May lightning strike you down if you don’t tell the truth!

That old phrase/threat went through my mind when I read about lightning strikes in the Midwest today. 

The key to not getting hit by lightning is to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Before you hand me a cookie and tell me to go away with that seemingly stupid observation, let me explain:

It doesn’t matter where you stand, what you wear or what you carry — the best thing to do is to avoid the locations where lightning can strike. Does that sound better? For example, anywhere outdoors or in unprotected structures.

Let’s say you’re somewhere outside where there are no buildings to hide in. A car (with a hard top, of course) will protect you. A direct strike to your car will flow through the frame of the vehicle and usually jump over or through the tires to reach ground.

Note I said usually. If you happen to be unlucky enough to touch the metal frame with your arm (or other body part) it could ruin your day. Especially if you don’t get out of the vehicle and check it out. Fuel can be ignited by a strike and cause a fire or explosion

I’ve got a couple of medical terms dealing with lightning I bet you never heard of: Keraunomedicine (study of lightning casualties and associated treatments), and keraunopathy (the study of effects of lightning on the human body)

Illuminating as all of this information may be, being struck by lightning is not something most people worry about. 

That is, unless you’re a statistic and this information comes too late for you.

Forgive me for being so flippant about a subject that strikes terror into some people. Sometimes I can’t help myself. 

I’ve never been struck by lightning (knock on wood!) nor have I ever met anyone who was. Like most of you, however, I’ve heard and read a lot of lightning strike stories.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Where Our Society Went Wrong: Specialization is for Insects

My wife went to a dentist the other day to get a tooth pulled. 

To her surprise the dentist said he couldn't do it. 

He said she would have to go to a specialist - an oral surgeon.

What happened to the days when you went to a dentist and he/she was a one-stop event? 

The days of a doctor meeting your medical needs are gone as general practice doctors are now more of a referral step to a specialist.

Full service gas stations are only memories in a time when you could bring your car in to get gas, replace your breaks, or get a tune-up. 

It's clear to me where our society went wrong. The idea of a person being able to utilize more than one skill at a time has degenerated into a work force of drones only capable of one skill at a time.

Specialization is for insects. 

Humans should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. The idea of a Renaissance Man with numerous skills is long gone, replaced by a specialist with only one skill.

In the ant world specialization is a genetic disposition that divides workers, fighters, and a queen into segments.

Humans should take advantage of the multiple skills they're capable of and lead a fuller life with multiple options to expand their experiences.

After all, we only get one lifetime to make our mark on society.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

When Love Calls: a Longing Look at a Four-letter Word

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(Editor's note: Today I'm sharing a blast from the past when I was a columnist - 18 years ago - with a daily newspaper in Northern California (The Times-Standard), because the topic still holds true. In this post Trump America we need LOVE more than ever.)

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The Beatles had it right when they sang, “All you need is love.

The most positive emotion in humans is love. It moves mountains. It saves lives. No amount of money will ever buy it. Your body and mind need it like oxygen.

It has spawned poems since ancient times when rhymes were written for kings and queens.

C.S. Lewis describes four kinds of love in his book “The Four Loves.” They are based upon the Greek words for love; Storge (affection), Phileo (friendship,) Eros (romance), and Agape (unconditional love).

Love is the best anti-depressant, but many of our ideas about it are wrong. Most of us get our ideas about love from the popular culture. We expect to be swept off our feet when in love. We tend to have unrealistic images that don’t fit with the real world.

The myth in our culture is love just happens. It appears out of nowhere and suddenly you are intoxicated. It doesn’t work that way. You have to actively pursue love by learning a variety of skills. You can’t just sit down and wait for love to come to you. That’s a mistake a lot of us make.

"Hate controls everything it touches, but love sets everything it touches free,” said Bryant McGill, in “Voice of Reason.” It’s true. Love can give us a new lease on life. It has no boundaries, other than the ones we set upon it.

An extremist when it came to love, Kurt Vonnegut also had a healthy irreverence about it. In “The Sirens of Titan” he wrote, “A purpose in human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

In “The Brothers Karamazov Fydor Dostoyevsky forcefully describes love. “What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love."

Paulo Coelho in “The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession” wrote, “Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.”

HonorĂ© de Balzac, who knew a thing or two about all-consuming love, wrote “Physiologie Du Mariage.” In it he states, “The more one judges, the less one loves.” The wisdom of this quote really resonates when you think about it. I think we’re all guilty, at one time or another, of harshly judging others.

One of my favorite quotes about love comes from Agatha Christie who wrote in her autobiography: “It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.”

It was Albert Einstein who asked, “How are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?” When I try to describe my first love (who I married) the words seem sappy and silly. I found that love grew, and was not a static thing.

The longer you love, the deeper it goes. I know this from experience. Poets and authors worldwide have talked about love since the days of yore, but the subject never seems to be exhausted. People have always written about it, big and small. Love is always a fresh subject.

Love is hard to define. How do you avoid mistaking it for infatuation or lust? Not even an experienced person can give a definite answer to that question. Psychologists talk about “that initial glow” (for the first six months) when a couple fall in love. It’s almost a fairy tale come true, but always ends in reality. If love survives the rigors of the world, it’s true love.

”Love is your mother watching basketball games with me, even though she doesn’t care about the game,” I explained to my sons early on. Love is selfless. It bends under stress, but always rebounds when given a chance.”

Contrary to what some people may think, love has no price, yet still has to be earned. A mother’s love for her child is the exception, because it has no bounds or requirements. I’ve seen love in my wife’s eyes for 39 years, despite all the dumb things I’ve done during that time.

Yes, I believe in the power of love. During my hippie days in the late ’60s, I eagerly embraced the message of “Peace and Love” even though I was a stranger to it. Love does make the world go around, of that I’m sure.

As It Stands, to have truly lived, we must have love in our lives.

Dave Stancliff is a former newspaper editor and publisher who writes this column for The Times-Standard. Comments can be sent to richarddavestancliff@gmail.com or to www.davesblogcentral.com

Monday, March 22, 2021

Support Animals: How COVID-19 Produced New Pets During The Pandemic

It's all about social distancing.

For a year we've been told to stay six-feet apart for safety reasons.

Needless to say it hasn't been easy. But thanks to support pets we're meeting the challenge. We've always used dogs as support pets, but the coronavirus has exposed a need for MORE SUPPORT.

Popular Pets in the Pandemic

Perhaps the most efficient support pet has been - surprisingly - skunks. You can put one on a leash and go out in public assured no one wants to get too close to you.

Some pet owners argue that their porcupines are just as effective.

Others claim that honey badgers are better because their generally violent attitude is a fit for these troubling times.

Advocates for racoons suggest their masks are more appropriate and that they're a match for a honey badger.

More extreme pet owners - generally from Florida - favor alligators and anacondas to keep a space between them and anyone else.

Hyenas have also been recommended as a support animal because of their laughter -which puts people off - and their general vicious demeanor.

You've probably noticed these aren't traditional support animals, but hard times call for drastic changes.

If you have come up with a non-traditional support animal that I don't have listed here please contact me so I can share for everyone's sake.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Sad Truth: Evangelical Christians Have Sacrificed Credibility and Moral Ground

In 2016 Evangelical Christians lined up behind Trump and supported him as the "lesser of two evils."

The cost-benefit analysis that led them to follow Trump didn't factor in the long-term damage he, in fact, is still doing.

The consequences of undermining Christian witness have turned people who might have otherwise been receptive to a salvation message-to look else where for a path to redemption.

By cleaving to Trump the last four years, Evangelicals are finding themselves isolated in America's religious communities.

The only message that came from the four-year exodus from Jesus Christ's teachings is that Evangelicals are Republicans. Hardly a message of salvation for all.

We've all seen the negative repercussions that came with embracing the MAGA ethos.

Christian principles have been muffled, giving away moral authority to the Republican Party's white-working class rural fears about immigration, gun control, and culture change.

Simply put, Trumpism has destroyed the Evangelical brand. It replaced their message with toxic politics. The risk they took in 2016 has not paid off. 

With Trump as the de facto leader of Evangelical Christians, their future is in question.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

COVID-19 Follows Trump Around Like a Loyal Dog

One year ago the first known exposure to the virus happened at Mar-a-Lago when Trump invited a Brazilian official to his resort.

The official posed for a photo next to Trump and attended a family birthday party. Since then the pandemic swept over the country like a toxic black cloud.

Remember the Trump White House? It had several outbreaks after flouting virus precautions by resisting mask-wearing and continuing to hold large events.

Who can forget the mass spreader rallies Trump put on while campaigning?

Is it any wonder then the virus has been following Trump around like a loyal dog being thrown scrapes of meat?

Trump's lies and distain have sustained the virus for over a year. 

In January, Palm Beach County issued a warning to Mar-a-Lago's management after a New Year's party that violated an ordinance requiring employees and guests to wear masks.

Videos of the party went viral because of the blatant non-compliance during the last surge.

Since losing the 2020 election Trump has been holed up at his once "Winter White House," plotting revenge against the world.

His loyal virus has stayed with him right up until now. Mar-a-Lago is partly closed after staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.

An email sent to members said that service has been temporarily suspended in the club's dining room and its beach club because staff members have tested positive.

It's no secret Trump doesn't like dogs, but it may be news to some that he treats the coronavirus like a loyal pet.

Friday, March 19, 2021

On Being Lucky: Pure Chance or Planned?

Good lucky is an elusive thing that most people hope to catch like lightning in a bottle.

Two aspects of luck

1. Good Luck can strike like lightning when you least expect it.

2. Good Luck can also be planned if a person has enough determination to focus on the steps to improve their situation. It's called "making your own luck."

Examples

When someone wins the lottery it's pure luck. No amount of planning can make it happen.

In contrast, you can combine knowledge and luck and find expensive and rare items in a garage sale.

The most recent example is a rare 15th-century Chinese antique purchased for $35 in New Haven, Connecticut.

The person who discovered the "Lotus Bowl" was knowledgeable about porcelain craft and always kept their eye out for treasures.

It paid off and the lucky person (name not released) sold the rare bowl at an auction - Sotheby's - and got $721,800 dollars for it.

As for pure unadulterated luck I have a personal example for you.

When I was in Vietnam (1970) I stepped on a land mine while minesweeping Hwy. 1. My squad leader saw the depression in the road before I did and shouted (and used hand signals) to stop... but I took one more step before complying.

Ripping off my ear phones in a panic I was sure my time was up as I stood there on shaky legs!

The rest of the squad scattered to the sides of the dirt road. Everyone but my squad leader. He got down on his knees and started probing around my foot with a k-bar knife.

After uncovering most of the plate he wiped the sweat off his brow and told me it was okay to step forward - it was an Anti-tank mine (a leftover from the French occupation) and I wasn't heavy enough to set it off.

That's when I became a believer in dumb luck.

At one time or another, we all have encounters with good luck. How you get it, is a story with two possible tales.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

When Are Democrats Going to Stand Up To McConnell's Obstructionism?

It seems impossible that one man can change the fate of the country by simply opposing the other party on ANY legislation.

Yet, Mitch McConnell has been doing that since President Obama was sworn into office, promising no cooperation with the newly elected Commander-In-Chief. 

Even though McConnell now leads a minority in the Senate, he's still doubling down on ANY agenda the Democrats propose.

In his latest rant, McConnell threatened the Democrats if they change the filibuster, or did away with it.

Standing behind the podium on the Senate floor recently, McConnell promised a "totally scorched-earth policy in Congress" if the Democrats dare to make changes to the filibuster.

Listening to Moscow Mitch swear to "...unleash furies the Democrats can barely imagine," one would think he's running the country and not Joe Biden.

Claiming the the Senate will become even more divided if there are any changes to the rules - is a blatant misrepresentation. The Senate Republicans have already put up a solid wall of opposition with no means of reconciliation.

It's time for the Democrats to stand up to McConnell's obstructionist tactics. If that means changing, or doing away with the filibuster, then so be it.

Otherwise, there will be no progress at all in the next few years. 

What's the difference between letting McConnell call all the shots with a minority in the senate, or standing up to him and making rule changes?

In both cases, McConnell intends to stop any legislation that he doesn't approve of. Trying to reason with him has proved impossible.

If the Democrats really want to enact big legislation, like Voting Rights and infrastructure improvement, the only way it's going to get done is to take charge and do away with the filibuster.

The can worry about the rolls being reversed someday all they want - with a Democratic minority helpless to do anything about it. But, unless they take bold measures now this country is never going to see progress.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Herrera Beutler: GOP Latina Congresswomen Not Afraid to Chart Her Own Course

Regardless of party, if a lawmaker stands up for truth and democracy, I respect them.

The one thing that stands out about Herrera Beutler, a Republican Latina member of the House, is she's not afraid to enter uncharted waters to do the right thing.

She's unique for a lot of reasons. She's not a grandstanding puppet pledged to protect Trump despite how corrupt he is.

Trump minions were unable to intimidate her when she voted to impeach Trump the second time around. She, and nine other, "renegade" GOP House members broke from the pack and voted against Trump.

That vote was a moment of truth for Beutler.

It landed her in the GOP leader's office, and incurred the wrath of Trump who promised to campaign against her (and the other nine) when they're up for re-election.

That moment of truth hasn't faded yet, as she continues to be in the limelight for revealing damaging details about Trump's phone call with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

Here's the thing about Beutler; she's spent 12 years in the House steering clear of controversary. She's never been a flamethrower.

However, what little allegiance she gave Trump evaporated after the Big Lie and the Capitol riot. 

In doing so she may have become a potential prototype for how to cross Trump and survive in the party. It remains to be seen.

One thing is for sure, she's not afraid to chart her own course and stand up for the Constitution and truth.

In a recent interview with Politico, Beutler was asked, if she lost her seat for standing up for what she believed was right would it be worth her defiance?

Her reply, "If it means making sure our party thrives and continues to defend those ideals that I think are enshrined in the Constitution, then it's worth it. It's so worth it."

Kudos.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Why Don't We Know How Officer Sicknick Died Yet?

When the first reports about the Trump-inspired coup attempt at the US Capitol came in we heard a Capitol Hill Police Officer, Brian Sicknick, was killed.

The early reports suggested he died after being struck with a fire extinguisher. Not true. Since then his cause of death has become a mystery.

According to Sicknick's brother, Ken Sicknick, the family had been informed he suffered a stroke resulting from a blood clot. 

Ken Sicknick said his brother told him in a text message sent before he collapsed that he had been hit with bear spray wielded by rioters.

Thus far two men have been charged with assaulting Officer Sicknick. Julian Elie Khater and George Pierre Tanios were arrested Sunday.

Arrest papers stated that both men used bear spray on Sicknick and two other officers.  But - and this is a big but -   neither have been charged with his murder.

Why?

The authorities investigating the case have been mute as to what the real cause of death was. The rumor mill in Washington D.C. claims Sicknick died from "chemical exposure."

Still, there has been no definitive cause of his death two months later. His death has been a secret long enough.

Someone is preventing the whole story from coming out for reasons unknown. There had to have been an autopsy report. So why not release that?

Sicknick's family was told one thing that may, or may not, have been true. The troubling part is the family may have been lied to. Why else would the story not be released to the public?

Hopefully, time will reveal what really happened so we can put Brian Sicknick's death behind us.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Trump is Kicking His Followers Under The Bus

A recent poll showed that half of Trump's supporters have indicated they aren't going to get the vaccine against the coronavirus.

The reason why is both pathetic and sad. 

Trumplicans tend to ignore reality in favor of Trump's alternate universe. Even when their lives are at stake.

Thanks to our former president, getting a vaccine has become a political statement. 

In a twist of irony, Trump got the shot in private. He didn't want his loyal minions to see that he was a hypocrite and supercharging a pandemic for political gain.

In other words, Trump is throwing his minions under the bus. There's no other way to describe what he's doing.

In a time when healthcare officials are cautiously advising people that the pandemic has slowed down - less cases and deaths - but to not let their guard down and to continue safety measures, Trump's vaccine stance stands in the way of defeating the virus.

The worst part of what Trump has done is indoctrinating his cult followers against science and facts. 

Like I said, 'Putting Up A Fence Is A Declaration of Fear'

Justice for J6 Rally. Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. Less than 200 attended the right-wing event. I asked the question are we overreacting to J6...