Category Archives: Thoughts @ Large

•  I still find it remarkable how humans developed the means to make and transmit sounds using pulses of electrons — not to mention our ability to comprehend what electrons are.

•  My spouse and I have been homeowners for over 40 years.  After we bought our first home, Mrs. Glassey, the departing owner, graciously left behind several gardening tools, among them a pitchfork, a garden rake, a sod spade and a round-point shovel.  I use them all to this day.  These implements have both heft and history.

Trouble is, I now have doubts about the pitchfork.  The last time I used it to loosen some plants for transplanting, its wooden shaft creaked and crackled, warning me that the next sound I would hear, if I were to strain any harder, would be a terminal snap.

Since then, I have eased off but have not stopped using the pitchfork — nor have I thought about buying a new one.  Because of its heritage, it is now pretty much a ceremonial tool.  Is this not the height of irrationality?  Do any of you have such objects?

•  This week, the J. M. Smucker Company, the well-known maker of jams and jellies, rolled out a new corporate logo and, along with it, an elaborate description of what the logo’s various shapes and colors represent:

“The red berry shape reflects our heritage and the values the company was built on,” said creative director Kara Buckler.  “The green shape is our innovative mindset and ability to pivot to any challenge.  The darker green represents our growth, teal is our people and culture, and purple represents the creativity that … will propel the company forward.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs during this pandemic, but somehow, bullshit artists like Kara Buckler manage to get paid, more so for the bullshit than the art.  For them, it’s just one more thing to jam down consumers’ throats.

•  When it comes to romantic tic-tac-toe / Some people make more exes than ohs.

•  We no longer need to get worked up over hypocrisy by politicians, now that the crime of hypocrisy has been lessened to simple misdemeanor.  As we know, the usual sentence for misdemeanors is community service.  And community service is an excellent resume item if you decide to run for office…   Oy!  This could be a problem.

•  The other day, my spouse came up with a clever idea for a new fashion item: day-of-the-week underwear for men.  Already been done, you say?  Well, what makes her idea different, and more practical, than other day-of-the-week underwear is that every pair says “Saturday” — being that guys only change them once a week anyway.

•  Whether we are with family, friends or strangers, I like asking others what they’ve been doing for fun, their current aspirations, books they’re reading, etc.  Things that touch upon their mental/creative lives and provides them an opportunity to reflect in a different way than the usual, “How’s work going?”

This not only shows care for the other person but often ignites an interesting discussion.  However, as these discussions usually go, (a) I rarely get asked questions about myself, and (b) the conversations generally drift off to impersonal topics like the news, weather, children/grandchildren, television, Netflix.  While my spouse likes to talk about children and grandchildren, she generally agrees that she gets asked few questions about herself.

I have pondered this.  Am I just narcissistic?  Do I already volunteer so much information about myself that I kill interest and leave no room for questions?  Or are people just not comfortable asking personal questions, even of those that they know?  Or does it not even occur to folks to reciprocate?

As Fred Rogers said, “I’m talking to you, so right now you are the most important person to me.  Our conversation is the most important thing to me right now.”  It’s too hard to be like Jesus was, but I don’t think it’s beyond me to be more like Fred Rogers, or at least try.

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•  I thought I had invented a new word, charmogram, as in, “He knew that he had said the wrong thing, so he sent her a charmogram.”  Sadly, Winx Club already thought of it.

•  I don’t know how leaders of other nations are viewed by their citizens, but when it comes to our president, Americans seem to have unrealistically high expectations.  We are always looking to elect President Superman.  But we usually wind up with hapless Jimmy Olsen.

•  Here’s a story that has been buried by coronavirus coverage.  On July 29, as reported in The Wire, a 15-year-old Pakistani teen, Faisal Khan, got past three security checkpoints at a Pakistan courtroom and gunned down Tahir Naseem, a U.S. citizen arrested in 2018 for blasphemy.  As a local cleric explained, Naseem “kept saying things like, ‘I’m a messiah or a prophet,’ and that caused great trouble in our village.”

Khan, the shooter, has been hailed as a hero by many fellow Pakistanis.  Lawyers across Pakistan offered to “defend Khan for free, to support what they see as the justified killing of a heretic.”  Needless to say, I find this shocking and sad.

So, how long ago did we more civilized people end our blasphemy trials?  400 years ago? 1000 years ago?  Try 1928…  I don’t mean 1928 years ago but the year 1928 in the U.S.A.  That is when Charles Lee Smith was convicted of blasphemy in Arkansas for distributing atheist literature.  Even better, he was not allowed to testify on his own behalf because he refused to take an oath on the Bible!

We may not condone stonings in 2020, but there’s still plenty of blowback when a person says the wrong thing to the wrong person about religion (as well as many other subjects).  Americans like to bluster about how much we cherish freedom, but far too many of us still don’t take kindly to people who don’t look like, talk like, or think like we do.  So let’s not over-congratulate ourselves on how unlike Pakistan we are.

•  I had to laugh at Trump’s recent insinuation that electing Joe Biden would “hurt God.”  If God could be hurt by Joe Biden, he (Biden) must be more powerful than we all thought.  Powerful enough to pre-ordain the outcome of the election, I would think.  This suggests that God and Trump are both in trouble come November.

•  In most countries, the god is elected by popular vote, not an outdated electoral college.

•  As a side note, if God can be hurt, it means that God feels.  But how can God feel or sense anything without nerves, neurons or substance?  I suggest that God — at least the popular conception thereof — requires far more explaining than how nothing became something.  There you have it, my gender-free atheist thoughts for this year.  No stoning please.

•  I have seen many red skies in the morning and never once has the warning come true.

•  Boomer Mystery Quiz: In the 1966 song “No Milk Today” by Herman’s Hermits (lyrics by Graham Gouldman), why was there no milk today?

  •  ▢ Because she had Friday on her mind.
  •  ▢ Because she was groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon.
  •  ▢ Because she left home to meet a man from the motor trade.
  •  ▢ Because she went up, up, and away in her beautiful balloon.
  •  ▢ Because she don’t want to work, she just want to bang on the drum all day.

•  The other night, I dreamt that a stoner-type invited me to a party scheduled from 3 AM to 9 AM.  I asked him, “What will you do until 3 AM?”  He said, “Party.”

Coronavirus Outbreak Statistics on TV•  News doesn’t have to be fake to be unhelpful.  Take, for example, this screenshot of statewide COVID-19 figures that regularly appears on our (only) local TV station.  It enumerates the total number of cases, deaths, hospitalizations and tests performed in North Carolina, along with the increase in each figure since the last update.

While the death figure is important, particularly to the victims and their families, knowing the cumulative numbers of cases and tests since the pandemic began doesn’t help a viewer make decisions.  Journalists, of all people, know there’s a difference between statistics and information:  just reciting a screenful of statistics without interpretation is lazy reporting.  Nonetheless, news broadcasts, local and national, seem to thrive on big numbers.  

It would be more informative if (1) local figures were cited rather than statewide figures; (2) current figures (say, over the last two weeks) were cited instead of cumulative figures; and (3) figures were normalized, e.g., cases per week per 100,000 residents, or percent of total ICU capacity remaining.  This would give us a better sense of what it’s like out there, and it would let us compare our situation to other localities.  Is that too much to ask?

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Thoughts @ Large: 69

It doesn’t seem right that the days are already getting shorter in our fair Hemisphere. I’ve never been a fan of the summer solstice, the buoy in the bay that marks the turn of the sun’s race back to its winter harbour.  But the prospect of ever-diminishing daytime hours seems especially depressing this time around.  I wonder why.

I have gradually lost respect for the coordinator of the White House (emphasis mine) Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Deborah Birx.  Her public statements seem designed less to inform than to market the effectiveness of Trump administration actions.  I like to give health professionals the benefit of the doubt, but Birx has become the Susan Collins of our government’s pandemic response.  You really can’t count on what she has to say.

For-profit hospitals should award their patients points for emergency room visits and overnight stays.  You would earn 1000 points for every hour spent waiting to be seen in the emergency room, 100 points for every minute between the time you push the call button and a nursing assistant arrives, 2000 points for each time you had to tell a doctor or nurse what was wrong with you instead of the other way around, and 3000 points for trying to understand anything a doctor says to you while you are laying there weak and exhausted.  You would earn one free night in a semi-private room upon reaching Silver status, or a private room if you reach Gold, along with a voucher for a complimentary breakfast and a delicious cookie.

No policeman arrests himself…. except that one time in Mayberry, North Carolina.

My high-school English teacher annotated my final report card with a two-star review: negative attitude.  Yes, I did write and circulate a mocking and disrespectful school-satire magazine among my classmates, but to this day I’m not sure how my attitude should have affected my English grade.  It’s not like I was making crude jokes about Dickens — because those wouldn’t have been very funny.

The Great Saharan Dust Cloud of 2020 has arrived here in the Carolinas. Looking out our family-room window today, I figured our visibility is about 3000 feet. And even with our doors and windows closed, our eyes have begun to smart. What’s next, locusts?

It is time for a poet to step forward.  Poetry has the power to make people “hopeful as a rainwashed hill of moonlit pines.” [Carl Sandburg, “The People, Yes”, 1936].  I hope we are not in a post-poet era but I fear that is the case.  Maya Angelou died six years ago.  No one has replaced her.  Who can name one candidate?  (Please, no votes for Taylor or Beyonce.)

One would like to be optimistic, especially if one is an optimist.  One would like to think that the course of human events can indeed be bent in a favorable direction, if only one makes the effort.  The rest of this thought is left for one (you) to complete.

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