Sunday, January 01, 2012

My thoughts

I’m back from nearly a month in NY and then a weekend in Baltimore. It was hard to write about the stuff I really wanted to while away from my oh so precious library. I'm going to get back to that next week. In the meantime, these are my thoughts for the end of the year and the beginning of the new.  

Please don't try this at home 

While in New York I spent about 3 ½ weeks being a witness and giving support on a sad family (not mine) trial that really broke my heart. Having just written a long paragraph about it here, I erased it all and will just say that those who read this who have children and who think they can leave assets in the name of one or more children expecting them to distribute to others, just because they love and trust their child, should think hard about it. Your pollyannish vision of your child/children may not survive your death, and you may very well not be aware of family dynamics that will lead to disaster. Of course, it does happen as planned sometimes; it did in my family. But in any number of other families, it does not. Even where it does not result in litigation, it may result in an eternal lack of trust and the end of peaceful family relations. Every family is different and how it will play out is usually not predictable.


I just wrote about my dieting a few weeks ago and won’t repeat what I wrote there (a frigging long article but a couple of people have told me it is their favorite of my efforts). But, having lost over 75% of the weight I intend to and hoping to lose the next 20-25% in the next few months, I have turned my intention to maintaining weight loss. Without mentioning studies or articles, my research so far tells me the following.

It is natural to regain all or more of your weight back within a year of your maximum loss. In fact, statistically, it is almost inevitable. If you do not want ir to be inevitable, you must not only continue doing what you did to lose weight, but you might very well have to increase your efforts as your body/brain makes changes to fight against what it feels as starvation. This does not sound like fun. It is my intent to do it, but, one of my mottos is – failure is always an option. Let’s hope not.


I have predicted Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination. He has always been the most consistent top performer, so picking him wasn’t hard. Sticking with him through every challenger has been harder. But, so far he has withstood every serious challenge by Bachmann, Trump, Perry, Cain and Gingrich. I still think he will succeed even if Ron Paul wins Iowa. I really don’t know if Paul, who I prefer to Romney, will have a shot outside of Iowa and maybe Texas and a few other states. A victory by him in Iowa may make it more difficult for him in contrary New Hampshire, but Romney has that state all but sewed up. I will make a further prediction. Romney will win Iowa. Right now he is caught up in a close contest with Paul and Gingrich, according to the polls, but I believe he will prevail. Maybe it is not that important a prediction because I feel New Hampshire is more important and South Carolina more important still. However, if Romney wins Iowa, with few expecting him to do so, and his making a very lukewarm effort until recently, would generate more excitement about him – and he needs that for the general election. Ironically, I am not crazy about Romney, and have as much trouble trusting him as others do. He is an opportunist, though no more than Gingrich and much less than Trump. He just is acceptable and has a better chance of winning the general election than Paul or the others.

If Romney prevails, it could be asked, why this strange pattern of one challenger after another passing him in the polls only to fall by the wayside? We all know that the challenge arises because cultural conservatives want “anyone but Romney.” But, as they put up each candidate, there are enough of them who are rational enough to recognize the faults of the contender, even if they prefer him, in a general election, and they try someone else. Those are the ones whose desire to beat Obama is stronger than their desire to nominate a dream candidate.

Of all of them, I will be happiest if Gingrich loses for reasons I’ve stated here a number of times (but too arrogant, narcissistic and partisan sum it up pretty well – it is a rare time I am disqualifying someone based on their character rather than their policies). But, I will also be happy that Perry gets smushed. I was very open minded about him, waited to see how he would do and to learn his views. I don’t even care that he was awful at debating. It has little if anything to do with being a good president. But, I am getting more and more fed up with candidates who pander to a religious base.  I could care even less that someone’s morality is “informed” (a weasely word, if there ever was one) by their religion, or even that they are very religious, but don’t want to hear about how they are going to bring their religion into the White House, as Perry has announced in a commercial in Iowa. Who said you needed to be ashamed about being a Christian, so that you have to say you aren’t? Give me a name. And, the shot he took at gay service men or women for purely political purposes was revolting. But, he is not alone. Most of the main contenders have similar views. Although Republicans have better policies right now (not that they would necessarily follow through if given the opportunity), in my view, I am just done with their unrelenting attacks on gays, atheists and American Muslims for political purposes and will not, absolutely not, vote for a candidate who makes that part of their campaign even if I have to vote for a third party candidates that gets less than 1% of the vote.

No, no, neutrinos

For some time it has been almost a parlor game for physicists to discover that something can travel faster than light. This is impossible according to Einstein’s theory. It is the impossible part that makes it so much fun for them, but the stories inevitably fade away. The latest culprit are neutrinos, a very strange (to us) and malleable particle (presuming they exist; what do I know?) which can easily travel right through the earth. This was done by measuring neutrinos which were created in one of those giant particle colliders and whose arrival was measured a few hundred miles away. Most stories neglect to mention that they arrived 3/1000s of one percent faster than expected. Not surprisingly, many scientists are expecting some kind of human or mechanical error. Me too.

Not another war on Christmas?

Every year we must wallow through (at least those who read political literature) the ultimate right wing fantasy that there is a war on Christmas/Christianity in America. It is perhaps their greatest canard. We live in a country nearly 80% Christian, with atheists making up only 1.6% of the population (Pew). Yet, some few conservatives act like the sky is falling and there is actually a plot against Christmas in this Christmas obsessed country whose season starts the second Halloween ends (and earlier at shopping malls). Out of the couple of hundred million celebrating Christmas (Pew), if any one person – even one - dare suggest that they have a different opinion about the constitutionality of some public religious display – it is seen by these few as a massive attack on Christianity. I’ve even read comments by those who claim using “Xmas” is a slur. That’s not politically correct?  

Lifeways Research, which is a Christian research group, found in 2010 that:
“. . . . nine in 10 Americans (91 percent) personally celebrate Christmas and those aren’t all self-identified Christians. A majority of agnostics or those claiming no preference (89 percent), individuals claiming other religions (62 percent), and even atheists (55 percent) celebrate Christmas along with 97 percent of Christians.”

There are, of course, parts of the world where it is not safe to be Christian. But, that’s not here. Christmas is the single most observed cultural event in America – even greater than the Super Bowl. I’m glad. I love Christmas and celebrate it more than most (it still saddens me when someone doesn’t love Christmas – even Jews). My answer to the Christian warriors sure that the citadel is being besieged – go to a mall starting in November (although earlier some places) and wallow in the season. Take a walk in your neighborhood and look at the beautiful lights, decorations and trees. Turn on your radio and listen to the Christmas music or watch Miracle on 34th Street or Elf.

iphone you

My older brother calls me a luddite, and to some degree, he is right. No, I’m not going around smashing machinery and I have, obviously, a computer, use the internet and even have a cell phone which, to my chagrin, becomes more and more a bigger part of my life. Last month, while in NY, I accidentally left my cell phone at my home away from home while out and for the first time ever, felt a loss, like I was cut off. I do not like this, Sam-I-Am. So, to get back to where I was, now that I returned home, I am leaving it off or home more often.

But, I always say that technology is inevitable, there is no stopping it, and it is only a matter of time before even naysayers adopt it, because, realistically, what else are you going to do?

The newest toy out there, at least for the general non-technical population, is the iphone – particularly the 4 gigobyte models, or its cousins, the Android phones. My friends, my age or older, who own them, are in love with them. They gaze at them tenderly. They delight in showing you how they can talk to them, although this is almost hype. But, they can take instruction, and, of course, it will only get better in time. They are amazing devices and would have seemed magical or science fiction 20-30 years ago.

In my little world, a piece of technology is only as good as its value to you. I do not need technology that makes it harder or me less happy. There is no doubt that these devices are superior to their non-digital predecessors in almost every way, and that, inevitably, they will completely replace them (and then be replaced themselves). But, it is the cultural aspects that disturb me, as it does many people. But, these are random thoughts, so I’m not going into detail. I will just mention my one friend who had – had – to have the newest and best model of iphone. 3 months later his wife was mad at him because he didn’t answer when she called. His reason – he didn’t know how. I probably wouldn’t either. Every time someone has showed me something on one of them I accidentally turn it off and they had to start from scratch. The same friend has several high tech, extremely expensive televisions. He was not happy with even a similar television which he had bought two years earlier and that was almost indistinguishable from the new one he bought. But, I can turn my crummy little portable set (do they make portables anymore?) in my living room on with one button. Neither I nor his wife can work any of the televisions he owns and neither can his wife. Is he happier because of these devices? He thinks he is and probably he wouldn’t be happy without them, knowing there were “better” out there. He’d be happier, in my mind, if he’d let go of the need for top of the line models. Another friend of mine, a relative, is so hooked on social networking, he cannot bear to be without a device, or two, in his hand. You cannot really talk to him anymore, at least, most of us. Is he happy? I know the answer is no.

Open letter to Kim Jong-un

Dear Mr. Kim,

You have an opportunity few have had in their lifetimes. You can save your country by opening it up to the world, freeing your people. To do so, you will have to give up your power and much that comes with it (not the girls or being rich and famous, but the ability to have people kill or intimidate on your behalf at your whim). I don’t know if you are so brainwashed in your family’s way, or so grateful for the power you can not give it up. That seems likely. But, let Juan Carlos I of Spain be your model instead of whoever you have admired from China or Russia. As the great international man of mystery, Austin Powers, once said, “It’s freedom, baby. Yeah.”

Open letter to Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

I hope you lose in 2012. I want to get that out of the way because it is awkward to say that to someone. Domestically, you have traveled the path of your predecessors and tried to improve our economy by not allowing failure (and thereby ensuring it), by putting into effect a supposedly Keynesian policy that has never worked, by insisting, by pressing for unprecedented spending, by mistaking equal outcomes for equality under the law, etc. You are not the first to do these things, but you have done all of them and done them the most. It is not that you were dragged along by the Democratic congress (before 1/11), but you yourself were for these things. Failure and correction are necessary for a long term healthy economy as forest fires are to healthy woods. But, in foreign affairs, you have done much better. I respect your position on Israel. You’ve backed them but showed displeasure when they acted against our and their interests. It is not necessary to support allies in everything. Don’t worry about the nonsense from the right about you hating Israel or any cockeyed thing like that. Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton and Bush 2 all quarreled with her at times. Reagan even had us condemn them in the U.N., something no Reaganite will acknowledge. They just want to smear you to win the election. You know what I mean. It’s what you will do to their nominee. And, it was time to get out of Iraq. Good for you. They may end up in a civil war. I care, but ultimately, we didn’t belong their once Saddam and his power base was destroyed. If enough of them want civil war no power on earth can save them.  They either will learn to share power and have a peaceful transition of power or they won’t. You can’t save everyone. I am not happy with Libya, as I’m sure you know. You overstepped your authority and made it easier for future presidents to do so too. I would have voted with Dennis Kucinich to impeach. I know he’s kooky, but have you seen his wife? Then you know what I’m talking about. I’m also praising you for pushing congress to get rid of don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s about time. I’m embarrassed for our country that we had that in place. I wonder where the violence and bad effects are that we heard so much about. I haven’t heard of one incident yet. There will be some, of course. But, there are rapes in the service too. It doesn’t mean that having women serve is a bad idea.

Bigger is better? Really?

I just don’t get it. What is the big deal about big televisions? Someone just offered me what looks like a 48 incher to me (you measure diagonally, right?), replacing my 12 incher. I wasn’t going to do it, but my daughter and my evalovin’ gf both insisted that the one I had was just too small for when they visit. So, I took it. And now that I have it in place and have watched it a bit, I understand. I understand that I was absolutely right. Who cares how big your tv is, so long as it is big enough to see? And why do people want ipads and iphones, which are much smaller than computers, if big screens are so important? One of the many things I don’t get.

The things I’m not very good at

This is a long list and if I try and be anything like comprehensive, it will not only be the longest post I ever wrote, but it will take too long. But, please feel free to add your own if you don’t see your favorite here:

Small talk
Funerals (you know, what do you say? “I’m sorry” seems so lame)
Poetry (My best efforts usually begin with "There once was a man . . . " or "Roses are red . . . ")
Career choices
Working out
Dishes (you wash one and two new ones appear in the sink)
Ironing (how do people get all of those wrinkles out? One shirt is an endless project to me)
Washing the floor (I can’t explain it, but it just gets dirtier)
Dressing (I mean, I know how to dress myself, but my choices are not, ummm . . . considered fashionable)
Shaving (you have no idea how often I cut myself, even with today’s super razors)
Dancing (not that I do anything but avoid it – I once ran out of a wedding when the bride asked me to dance)
Singing (not that I try, but, I don’t think I need to explore this much to know)
Driving (well, avoiding fender benders and tickets, anyway)
Dreaming (I know this is unconscious, but I never have sex dreams; maybe I shouldn’t say I am bad at it; it’s just unfair)
Remembering where I put my wallet, keys, etc.
Taxes (I hate doing my taxes and always pay someone to do it for me but I’m sure I’d be really bad at it if I tried)
Keep things (you want to lose something; let me hold it for you a while; actually, despite my poor reputation in this area, I much more likely misplace things than lose them completely)

Like I said, I could go on. But this should satisfy.

Reality shows

I have never watched American Idol. I have never watched Survivor or Big Brother. I have watched The Biggest Loser when sitting in a room where it was being watched by my hostess, but I don’t like it. I did watch the finale of the original season of The Bachelor while I was packing to go on a trip. It was like watching a train wreck and I didn’t believe it when he picked one of the contestants and she accepted his proposal. I understood they broke up without ever seeing each other again once it ended. I hate reality shows. I can't stand that so many people want to watch them.

But . . . the only time I have ever regularly watched one of these shows was in 2005 when there was a show called Beauty and the Geek, which paired up good looking women with nerds. I was talking to my daughter in her room and the first episode was on. One of the characters was a very Woody Allenish contestant named Josh who actually slept in the bathroom rather than share a room with a good looking woman. There was just something about him that made you root for him. I ended up, to my shame, watching the entire season. And, in the last episode, he and partner, “Cher,” (no, not that Cher) won. But, she was the only woman who hooked up with one of the nerds – and it wasn’t Josh – it was another one who was much better looking and more normal (if you possibly care, I read they broke up later on). Why do I mention this? I suppose I am exorcising a demon and admitting I once regularly watched a reality show, at least for a season.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.


  1. List of things I'm not good at:
    1)making a point in less than 10000 words

    WHO AM I?

  2. Good start to the year. That was funny. But, not entirely accurate. I can make a point quickly. I just have trouble stopping making points. Occasionally, I do write an article for a paper under 700 words so I know I can do it, if I want. But, it's my blog, and I just don't want to.

    But, still, that was pretty funny, old man.


Your comments are welcome.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .