I'm a big fan of Harness Racing and Minor League Baseball (Lancaster Barnstormers). In case you didn't realize it, that's not my picture in the photo. That's my all-time favorite baseball player, Mickey Mantle, in racing silks before a celebrity Harness Race.
Last night I was reading about stem butt inoculation. Sounds kinky, but it’s just one way to grow mushrooms.
I’m not growing mushrooms myself, but I have started taking mushroom extracts to see if they have any positive effect on me. I’m also reading Mycelium Running – How Mushrooms can help save the Earth. Many mushrooms eat wood and leaves that are on the forest floor and turn it into fertile soil, but I’ve learned that some mushrooms can actually eat rocks and digest their minerals. Some mushrooms can even munch away at minerals that are poisonous to humans, stuff like lead, mercury, and radioactive Cesium. So, at places like Chernobyl there are mushrooms growing today that are eating up the leftover radioactive Cesium that was spilled in the catastrophe back there in 1986. You can’t eat these mushrooms, simply because they have consumed so much poison. However, we can pick them. Since they have absorbed radioactive material, when we pick them, we are, in effect, removing a little bit of the radioactivity from the area. More mushrooms will grow. Then, we can pick them and clean up even more of the radioactivity.
Then we can take the truckloads of these poison-munching mushrooms to a place that manufactures or uses whatever heavy metal they were eating. They can extract those heavy metals from the mushrooms. The result is that the area where the mushrooms got picked gets cleaned up and the poisons that were in the ground are safely recycled.
Some mushrooms eat cow shit and are still edible. (You’d probably want to wash them first, of course). There must be a mushroom growing someplace that likes human waste. Mushrooms can help us to clean up the planet. That’s just one of the amazing things that they do.
So, my point, which I got from a statement by Neil De Grasse Tyson is, we know how to “terraform” planets like Mars to make them more habitable to Earthlings. Wouldn’t it make more sense, he said, to invest the time and resources into just making Earth more habitable, first? That makes way more sense than just trashing this planet, like we’re doing, discarding it, and moving on to the next one.
Instead of tossing tons and tons of plastic into the ocean, maybe we can find a mushroom that eats plastic. Plastic is a petroleum product, and there are mushrooms that eat petroleum and can be used to clean up oil spills.
Last night during his State of the Union address, President Biden outlined many of the problems we face in the days ahead. Solving the problems won’t be easy, but it reminded me of something Henry J. Kaiser said, “Problems are only opportunities wearing work clothes.” We have the technology and the opportunity to use nature to help us greatly improve the habitability and health of our own planet. Our planet has been around for billions of years and it’s not right that our generation is just trashing it with no consideration for future generations.
Like the Joni Mitchell song that the late David Crosby sang at Woodstock:
… We are stardust, we are golden We are billion-year-old carbon And we’ve got to get ourselves Back to the garden.
We’ve got to get back to the garden, and using mushrooms can be one way to help us become better gardeners.
“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”
“To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns
I moved from downtown Lancaster to a house about 4 miles south of town, and one mile straight up. Well, it might not actually be a mile high like Denver, but it sure feels like it.
I live near the top of a great big hill. The bus stop is at the bottom of the hill. My best time down the hill is 13 minutes. My best time up the hill is 22 minutes. The unfortunate part is that since I only go out to shop, my knapsack is usually empty on the way downhill and full on the way uphill. So, the uphill hike, when my pack is full, is way more than 22 minutes.
Once, I tried it with a full pack and a 5-liter box of wine. Halfway up the hill I got chest pain and had to put a nitroglycerin pill under my tongue, and wait a few minutes, so that I wouldn’t have a heart attack.
I haven’t carried any wine up the hill, since then, but that doesn’t make me want to give up drinking wine. So, I needed to devise a Plan B. I came up with a plan that would have brought old Robbie Burns to tears. It was, I thought, the absolutely best laid plan of mice or men.
I didn’t just want to get wine. I wanted to get a lot of wine, plus there was a veritable bucket list of things I wanted to do on the same journey. I also wanted to make a trip to the bank, find a good local place to have pizza, and have a beer. (I drink wine at home, beer when I’m out.)
The first problem to overcome was that the bus only runs every two hours, except for the last 4 runs of the day, when it runs every hour: leaving the depot at 2:20, 3:20, 4:20, and 5:20 p.m. I worked out a plan that would have even impressed the D-Day planners.
I left my house at 2:10 p.m. I got down the hill at 2:23. The bus that left the depot at 2:20 arrived at my bus stop at 2:35, right on schedule. I got to the bank around 3 p.m., so a quick calculation told me that the 3:20 bus would probably arrive at the bank around 4 p.m.
I took care of my business at the bank and had 50 minutes before my next bus would come. I walked to a pizza restaurant that was just two or three bus stops down the road, Two Cousins Pizza Restaurant. I took my time savoring the two delicious slices of pepperoni pizza with a nice bottle of Juengling beer. I was checking things off my To-Do list rapidly. I went outside and only had a few minutes to wait for the bus that arrived in front of the restaurant at 4:05. That bus took me to the liquor store in Kendig Square, a big shopping center about 5 miles south of downtown Lancaster.
At this point, I’m congratulating myself on how well my plan is going, and I wasn’t worried about a thing. I only had two easy steps to go to complete my plan:
Buy a lot of wine.
Take a taxi home from there.
I bought 15 liters of wine, and a bottle of Bourbon. I dragged my purchase to the curb and dialed the number of the taxi I used to take whenever I went to the Roller Derby Games.
A recorded voice told me, “The number you dialed is no longer in service.”
I didn’t panic. I Googled the number or another taxi service. It picked up on the first ring. “Thank you for calling Lancaster Cab. Please hold on and I will try to connect you with a dispatcher.” Bad background music started to play.
“Try?” I said to myself. Did that answering machine say “try to connect?” I listened to the same 30 second loop of bad music for 10 minutes, when I realized that yes, the machine must have said “try.” So I hung up and went back to Googling another company.
“We’re sorry, but the number you dialed is no longer in service.” Covid seems to have wiped out all the cab companies in the Lancaster area.
By now the bus that left the depot at 4:20 is arriving at the Kendig Square bus stop, and leaving without me. I know that there is only one more bus, which leaves the depot at 5:20, but I can’t get on that bus and lug 16 liters of booze up the hill. I have maybe a dozen nitroglycerin pills in my pocket, but I fear that even that might not get me up the hill with 16 liters of booze weighing me down. So, I called another cab service.
“We can’t come to the phone right now. Leave a message and we’ll get back to you.”
I left a message, and checked Google again. There weren’t any other cab companies within miles, so I called the “trying” one again. Again, it picked up on the first ring.
“Thank you for calling Lancaster Cab. Please hold on and I will try to connect you with a dispatcher.”
It did say “try.” The musical loop played for 10 minutes before a dispatcher came on the line.
“Hello,” I said, “I’m at Kendig Square and I would like a taxi, please.”
“What is the address?”
I don’t know the address. It’s a shopping center. I’m outside of the liquor store in the Kendig Square Shopping Center.”
“You don’t have an address?”
“I have an address of where I want to go to, but I don’t know the address here. It’s the Kendig Square shopping center.
“Yes Kendig Square.”
“I don’t know where that is. Do you have an address I can put into the G.P.S.?”
“I don’t know the address. It’s the Kendig Shopping Center, about 5 miles south of downtown Lancaster. There’s a movie theatre the Kendig Movie Theater.”
“Okay, we’ll pick you up in one hour.”
“Wait! I’m not by the movie theater. I’m outside the liquor store.”
“Okay, can you wait an hour?”
“Yes, I can wait an hour.”
“Okay, we’ll be there in an hour.”
So, now I have to kill an hour. This wasn’t in my plan, but I dragged the booze into a nearby Chinese Restaurant. I had just finished eating pizza, but Chinese food isn’t filling, right? So, I ordered a quart of Beef and Broccoli. I was prepared to wait. I wasn’t hungry or in any hurry, but I’m telling you honestly. The cashier handed me my change and instantly produced a bag containing a steaming hot quart of Beef and Broccoli, with a pint of white rice.
Somebody else must have called in an order of Beef and Broccoli and she figured she would give me their order, which was ready, and they can eat the order I just put in, and that way everyone gets hot food, instead of this quart of Beef and Broccoli getting cold while she waited for them to show up.
I’m only guessing, but that must be what happened. So, I took the order to a table and sat down to slowly savor it. I even threw in a couple trips to the bathroom.
Then I went outside and watched as the last bus of the day left the bus stop. I was committed to the taxi now. It had been more than an hour, so I called them back.
“Thank you for calling Lancaster Cab. Please hold on and I will try to connect you with a dispatcher.”
“Oh boy! Here we go again.” To my surprise, though, a dispatcher came on within a minute.”
“It’s been over an hour and I’m still waiting for a taxi.”
“You want a taxi?”
Then we repeated the Abbott and Costello routine about the address of Kendig Square, as if we had never spoken before.
“Yes, Kendig Square.”
I wanted to say, “Yes, of course, Pennsylvania, you freakin’ moron. Why would I call a Pennsylvanian taxi company, if I wasn’t in Pennsylvania?”
I wanted to say that (and a few expletives), but the last bus had just left, and the other cab company that took my message an hour and a half ago, still hadn’t called me back, so my only other alternative was to call Crazy Debbie for a ride, and I knew that she would be hammered by this point in the day. Whatever “Gang aft a-gley” meant. My plans were sure doing it. So, I was instead, polite, extremely polite to this dispatcher.
“Okay, 20 minutes.”
To my astonishment, 20 minutes later a cab showed up, and 10 minutes after that I was home with my 16 liters of booze. Of course, since I’ve been home, I’ve already consumed 2 of the liters, because I figured that it was worth celebrating that I made it back from Kendig Square without needing a single nitroglycerin tablet. To me, that was a Christmas miracle.
It’s almost election day. One week and one day after Halloween, we’re all either going to be tricked or treated.
I used to get really worked up about elections, because I felt that the results could affect my life for decades. Now, I don’t have decades left. My Dad lived into his 90s, but he was always an outlier. At 74, I take 14 different pills a day just to keep me going, a few for the heart, a bunch for my hip, and some just for the head. I don’t have decades to go. So, I don’t get as worked up about elections, anymore.
I still care. The results may not affect me for decades, but, realistically, they will probably affect me for the rest of my life.
In Pennsylvania, I’m voting for John Fedderman. I first heard of his campaign back in April, when I got an e-mail just before National Pot Day (April 20th) asking me to contribute $4.20 on 4-20-2022 to support the senate campaign of John Fedderman, who wanted to legalize pot. So, I got out my credit card.
That’s the only political contribution I made this year. I think that Money has taken over politics, and the only way to curb the problem is to defund politicians. So, I don’t usually contribute to political campaigns. However, I’m a Democrat. John’s a Democrat. He wants to legalize weed. I’ve been arguing for the legalization of pot for more than 50 years. It was worth $4.20.
Five months ago, though, John had a stroke. He is steadily recovering, but still has some problems with words. His opponent is the Famous TV Doctor, Dr. Oz. They met in a TV debate.
The balance of power in both houses of Congress is so tenuous, that both sides are fighting tooth and nail in every swing state to see that their candidate gets elected, no matter who the candidate is or what their problems are.
The Republicans clamor that John Fedderman is not mentally competent for the Senate, because he had a stroke 5 months ago, while they circle the red wagons around Georgian Senate candidate Herschel Walker, who Democrats claim has had more concussions than I’ve had girlfriends, and, quite obviously, more girlfriends than I had, too, as they keep showing up with Morey Povitch type stories about abortions they had for him.
Isn’t it weird that we can forgive the mental problems of our own candidates, while so viciously attacking the mental problems of the other party’s candidates?
Me, I think the mental condition of the voters is actually way more important than the mental condition of the candidate, and, right now, I honestly believe that the knowledge level and intelligence of today’s average voter is at an all-time low. We live in an age when instant information is available at our fingertips, but most of us only ever listen to one side of the story, the side we’re on. Our decisions are made strictly by Party loyalty, not by any great reasoning process.
That finally gets me to my point. The worst case of decisions being made by Party loyalty, not by any great reasoning process is in the Supreme Court, where every decision does truly affect many of us for the rest of our lives. How can we the people make sure that Supreme Court Judges, judge fairly? We can’t. Ginni Thomas is working feverishly to overthrow the last election, and her Supreme Court husband Clarence just says he knows nothing about it because they don’t discuss politics at home. I don’t think I can trust him, but there’s nothing I can do about it. He has a job for life. He doesn’t care what I think.
I think this is wrong. Even the President is limited to just two four-year terms. The Supreme Court Judges should also be subject to term limits, ten years, or twenty years at the most, not forever. Amend the Constitution. Only Dictators want to rule for life.
I just watched a little pre-season football and noticed that some players are wearing wigs over their helmets. I looked it up and they are called Guardian Caps and they help absorb the shock, especially in helmet-to-helmet collisions.
With all the danger of concussions, why did they wait so long to do this? Actually, they didn’t. These things came out two decades ago, but only two players wore them, so when their playing days were over, so was the Guardian Cap, until now.
It made me think of the great free-throw shooter in Basketball, Rick Barry. He proved that you could improve your free-throw percentage, simply by tossing the ball underhanded. It worked for him, but it didn’t catch on. Wilt Chamberlain tried it and sunk the basket, but went right back to doing it the old-fashioned way. My guess is that athletes who are wearing a Guardian Cap or throwing free-throws underhanded are probably considered to be “sissies,” and players want to be macho. Basketball players who shoot free throws underhand don’t wind up sleeping with 23,000 women like Wilt claimed he did.
Sports are very slow to change things even when they are obviously positive changes, because nobody wants to look like a sissy. I remember the days when hockey goalies didn’t wear masks. Their faces were heavily scarred and they didn’t have any front teeth, but they didn’t want to look like sissies. After previously getting both cheekbones broken during a game, Jacques Plante became the first NHL Goalie to wear a mask in a season game on November 1, 1959. Fans must have thought it was left over from Halloween.
“It’s the coming thing in the game,” said Montreal coach Toe Blake. “The time will come when they’ll have an even better mask than Plante’s and it’ll be standard equipment for goalies.”
He was right. Today every hockey goalie wears a mask. For you trivia buffs, in 1974 Andy Brown of the Pittsburgh Penguins was the last NHL goalie to play without a mask.
All sports are very slow to change. I’ve been waiting 50 years for someone to start putting sneakers on horses instead of the antiquated method of nailing on metal horseshoes.
Brother X sent me a cheesecake for my birthday, and my friend Catherine came over for Scrabble and to take me out to dinner. Cat and I always joke about eating dessert first, so I told her that the theme for my birthday this year was a play on the book and movie “Eat, Pray, Love.” My theme would be EAT, BEAT, TREAT. We would EAT dessert first. Then I would BEAT her at Scrabble, and then she would TREAT me to dinner. She agreed to the Eat and Treat, but the BEAT part seemed a bridge too far. I very rarely beat her at any game.
So, after eating our fill of cheesecake (with me doing most of the eating) we started playing Scrabble, and I was feeling lucky. My luck showed up on the very first word, when I started the game with HOOKERS, a 7-tile word that gave me an instant 84-point lead. It was a birthday present from the Scrabble gods. Cat tried desperately to overcome that 84-point deficit, but she never caught me, even though she did manage to make it a very close game by the end. That took care of the BEAT portion of the evening, so we then headed to the restaurant, Shot & Bottle, which I hadn’t been to since President’s Day 2020, when I went there for a special James Buchanan night. We walked to the restaurant, so that we could both drink. It was a long 5-block walk, but my arthritic hip will cowboy up when there’s a free dinner and beer waiting.
Since I got back from the wedding of Jessie and Dylan in New York, the previous week, I’ve been craving the one thing I didn’t get around to having while I was in NY, a Pastrami on Rye. Pizza, bagels, and Pastrami on rye are all on my to-do list whenever I visit NY, but I never got around to the pastrami this time.
So, when I saw that on the menu, I knew what I had to have, with a tall cold beer, of course. The Pastrami sandwich turned out to be nothing like a NY Pastrami sandwich, though. You know the one I’m talking about, the sandwich with nothing but piles of steamin’ fatty pastrami all piled high in the middle of soft rye bread so that it looks like it’s an inch thick when they cut it in half, even though there’s very little meat around the edges of the sandwich. The Shot & Bottle pastrami wasn’t like that. It was more like a pastrami Reuben on rye toast. In addition to the pastrami, it was piled high with cole slaw, lettuce, tomato, red onions, and sauce. It was a salad and a sandwich at the same time.
Cat TREATed for dinner, but the TREATing didn’t stop there. She insisted on buying me drinks on the way back to my place, and it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting to get me to agree to that plan. We barhopped our way back to my place, which turned the long 5-block walk into a couple pleasant little walks. When we got to my place, I was feeling the buzz, but she was still sober, which was good for her, because she had to drive home to get a little sleep before he 6-hour rock-climbing class she was taking in the morning. I was a bit tired from all the walking and drinking, and I just sat down at the computer and did the NY Times Wordle. I got it in only 3 tries. Surprisingly, the Wordle word of the day was TREAT. How big a coincidence is that?
So, thanks to Brother X, the Scrabble gods, the Wordle gods, and Cat, who all contributed to giving me a birthday to remember, and a really good time. My EAT, BEAT, TREAT birthday turned out even better than I hoped it would be.
That night, I wondered how grueling Cat’s 6-hour rock climbing class would be for her the next morning. I was glad that I wasn’t signed up for that event, too. The only climbing I had to do was to climb into bed and sleep as late as I wanted. Now that I’m 74, that part of the birthday celebration was looking really SWEET.
Recently, I watched a couple videos about the causes of the American Civil War. Naturally, slavery was the central issue. That was the cause of the tension, but I don’t think that was the cause of the actual fighting, though. Slavery was nothing new. It had been practiced on our shores for over 200 years. The way I see it, the American Civil War was caused by our inability to amend the supreme law of the land, The Constitution.
With a total of 4,440 words, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world. James Madison, “The father of the Constitution,” did an amazing job of outlining the legal masterpiece. It was packed with detailed instructions on how to operate the brand-spanking-new government, yet it was only 4 pages long. I have appliance instruction manuals that take several dozen pages just to show me how to use a simple appliance. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people is exponentially more difficult than operating a microwave oven. To get all the power of the U.S. Constitution condensed into just four pages was brilliant, but it was not perfect, and both the designers and signers knew it.
Things change, and the young country was bound to go through massive changes if it survived. Nobody could predict the future, but the designers of the Constitution knew it would be way different, so they allowed for that. They made the Constitution flexible. They made it so that it would be able to change with the times. They incorporated Amendments, a brilliant idea. The first ten Amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, gave U.S. citizens certain specific rights that we treasure to this day.
Unfortunately, the Constitution did not provide these rights to all people. Despite the bluster of the Declaration of Independence about all men being created equal, the Constitution did not treat all men or women equally.
When it was ratified in 1787, the Constitution enshrined the institution of slavery through the so-called “Three-Fifths Compromise,” which called for those “bound to service for a term of years” and “all other Persons” (meaning slaves) to be counted for representation purposes as three-fifths of free people. The word “slavery,” however, did not appear in the Constitution until the 1865 ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States.
African Americans were not considered citizens, and women were excluded from the electoral process. Native Americans were not given the right to vote until 1924.
The problem with the Constitution is that it is too difficult to amend. On some issues, it is literally impossible to change.
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress…
Thirty-three amendments have been proposed. 27 have passed, but that includes the Bill of Rights. So, only 17 amendments have been added since September 25th, 1789. Since the 21st Amendment just repealed the 18th Amendment, there have really only been 15 additions in 233 years. That’s only one new amendment every 15.5 years, not nearly enough to keep pace with the rapid changes in the country in the last 233 years.
The Constitutionality of any law is determined by the U.S. Supreme Court, and since being a Supreme Court Justice is a job for life, they can be quite a bit older than the average American and have far more conservative views than the country as a whole.
In 1861, a bunch of conservative old Supreme Court Justices mostly from the South, gleefully determined that slavery was protected by the U.S. Constitution in their Dred Scott Decision. A nation, stirred up by Abolitionists and horrific stories about slavery such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, wanted to abolish slavery, so this Supreme Court Decision was quite unpopular in the North.
Actually, though terribly biased, their decision was a rather accurate interpretation of the Constitution as it was at that time, because the Constitution was absolutely archaic on the subject of slavery, and it was in desperate need of change. We needed an Amendment to abolish slavery everywhere in the country.
However, with the country equally split on slavery, there was no way that an anti-slavery Amendment could get a 2/3rds vote in both Houses of Congress, let alone the approval from 3/4ths of the states. There was no way for the problem to legally go away. Slavery, as morally wrong as it was, had the backing of the both the Constitution and the Supreme Court. The “will of the people” alone would never be enough to change the Constitution.
There were only two ways to correct the Constitution. Let the slave states leave, so that the remaining states would have the necessary majority to be able to amend the U.S. Constitution, or go to war to force the slave states out of business. President Buchanan chose the peaceful way, by letting the Southern States secede from the Union. President Lincoln chose war, and though he forced the country back together, the wound has never really healed. Ironically, it was Abraham Lincoln who often quoted John, Viscount Morley, “You have not converted a man because you silenced him.” I guess he didn’t get the irony.
Today, the President who chose the peaceful solution is reviled as one of the worst Presidents ever, and the President who chose a Civil War in which more than 630,000 Americans lost their lives, is revered as one of the greatest Presidents. We, Americans, just love our wars, don’t we? When we don’t have an outside enemy, we just fight each other. Just look how many Generals were elected to the Presidency. War, huh, what is it good for? Getting elected President of the United States, for one thing.
More than a century and a half after the Civil War ended, slavery has long been legally abolished in the United States, but the country is still bitterly divided by racism. We need to be able to solve our most serious problems with the Constitution much more easily. We need to be able to add Amendments more quickly. We may make a few mistakes in our haste to improve things, but like the 18th and 21st Amendments, we can always repeal our mistakes.
We also need to amend the Second Amendment. Sure, let anyone who wants to own a musket have one, but stop selling military weapons to school kids.
A bunch of old guys on the Supreme Court recently shredded Roe v Wade. We need an Amendment to the Constitution to give woman back control of their own bodies, and we need it quickly.
Getting 75% of the states to agree on something is next to impossible, nowadays. Compromise is a thing of the past. We live in a fast-changing world, and we need to be able to act quickly to pass Constitutional Amendments that will provide workable legal solutions, so that we don’t wind up settling all our disputes by fighting one another.
The results of polls can be very misleading. Just ask Hillary Clinton.
Still, I like to read them, especially if they validate anything in which I believe. Frequently, the polls disagree with me, though, because I don’t share a lot of mainstream beliefs. When polls ask, “Who was the worst President of the United States before Donald Trump,” the knee-jerk response of the public is usually James Buchanan. I live a mile away from where James Buchanan lived in Lancaster, PA, and I’ve visited his home many times. I’ve read a few biographies of the man, and now I’m the unofficial President of his fan club. I strongly disagree with the way the polls have ranked him and many other Presidents. My opinion hasn’t budged the needle of public opinion one bit, though. I know that I have my work cut out for me trying to elevate the tarnished image of James Buchanan. The polls are working against me.
Religious polls also tend to disappoint me. My group, the Atheists, always comes in last, way last. But that was until I saw the chart below. They combined the Non-Religious, the Convinced Atheist, Agnostics, and the practitioners of any Religion that didn’t have a God into “Total Atheists,” and, by calculating this way, the number of Atheists skyrocketed.
So, the numbers may be slightly inflated, but everything is inflated nowadays. Rather than just look at the raw numbers, though, I looked to see if there was anything else of interest in the chart. I found quite a few things.
The first thing I noticed was that few Asians believe in God. China was the top Atheistic country on the list with 91% of the country not believing in God. Japan was #2, with 86% of the country Atheistic. Vietnam came in at #11 with a 67% Atheist population, and Hong Kong was close behind at #13 with 66% Atheists. South Korea came in at #14 with 65% Atheists. So, I was quite shocked to see that Thailand came in as the most religious country in the survey with only 2% Atheists.
Scandinavia didn’t disappoint me. Sweden was #3 on the list with 78% Atheists. Norway came in at #9 with 70%. Denmark was #10 with 68%. Finland came in at #18 with 62%, and Iceland came in at #25, with just over half of its population not believing in God, 52%. I thought that it was ironic that the area of the world that created so many gods, should now not believe in any. They used to have a stable of gods: Odin, Frigg, the mighty Thor, Loki, Balder, Hod, Heimdall, Tyr, not to mention a couple of fertility gods, to help them get through those cold winter nights. It turns out that the fierce Vikings were more god-fearing than modern Scandinavians. Way to go, Scandinavia. My people.
The next thing I noticed really threw me for a loop. #20 on the list, with Atheists outnumbering the Religious by a margin of 61% to 39% was Israel. Yeah, Israel. According to this chart, which had to be accurate, because I found it on the Internet, there were more Atheists than Jews in Israel. Maybe it’s because they have so many scientists. Scientists have a higher percentage of Atheists than almost any other group. In a recent survey in the United States, 85% of Scientists said that they did not believe in a higher power that hears our prayers. I didn’t have time to dwell on the quantity of scientists in Israel, though. There was more shocking news on the very next line. Coming in right behind Israel at #21 was Ireland. Ireland? I thought that all they had was Catholics and Protestants who continuously fought one another, but the chart said they had more Atheists than all the warring Christians combined, 60% to 40%. Brilliant. LOL.
The next shock came when I got to country #30, The United States of America, the home of religious freedom. All the charts I’ve seen in the past put the percentages of Atheists in the United States at around 15%. This chart said that the religious outnumbered the Atheists but only by a majority of 56 to 43. That’s almost triple the number of Atheists that I had expected. It’s a Christmas miracle. That wasn’t the shocking part, though. By now, I could tell that this chart was probably compiled by an Atheistic organization, or, at least, one determined Atheist. So, I was taking all the numbers with a large grain of salt, but I was concentrating on the rankings, especially when I saw that Russia was ranked #33, with religious people outnumbering Atheists 61-39. The United States had a higher percentage of people who were considered to be Atheists than Russia. The shock I got from that was mild, but the laugh I got from that was bigger. Remember when we used to claim to have God on our side?
To counter Soviet propaganda during the Cold War, the United States adopted the motto “In God We Trust” in 1954. We wanted to let them Ruskies know that God favored us over the Atheistic Russians. Now, it seems, we have a higher percentage of Atheists than they do. God knows how that happened, and whose side He is on now.
The next thing I noticed was how religious they were in the Southern Hemisphere, except for Australia. Africa and South America are easily the two most religious continents, but their Southern Hemisphere Atheistic Mates in Australia outnumber the religious blokes there by a whopping 70% to 31%. (I know that comes out to a total of 101%, but if athletes can give 110%, why can’t we Atheists give 101%.)
The last thing I noticed was that the 10 most godless countries turned out to be places I would like to visit. The 10 most godless countries according to the poll are China, Japan, Sweden, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Belgium, Estonia, Australia, Norway, and Denmark. (I would need directions to Estonia, though. I have no idea where it is.)
The 10 most religious countries, on the other hand, were places I would not want to visit. As mentioned earlier, the most religious country on the survey was Thailand. The only thing I know about Thailand is that the capitol is Bangkok. I learned that the hard way as a child. So, I don’t want to go there. The next most religious country is Nigeria. I am curious to see if the Prince has my million dollars ready for pickup yet, but I’ll pass on visiting. The next most religious country is Papua New Guinea, followed by The Ivory Coast, Ghana, India, Armenia, Pakistan, Fiji, and the Philippines. Fiji might be fun, but I give a hard pass on visiting the rest of the religious countries.
Scientists have an expression they call “The God of the Gaps.” Whatever religious people can’t explain or understand is automatically just credited to God. Back when the Vikings believed in a host of gods, it did not make them holy. They raped, pillaged, and slaughtered much of Europe and beyond. Nowadays, the Scandinavians don’t need Thor to be the explanation for thunder, or some other god to be responsible for lightning, or the sun, or the moon, or whatever else they didn’t understand back then. Today, they understand a whole lot more. Today, they are a prosperous, happy, peaceful population. As science unraveled the mysteries, the gaps in their knowledge shrunk, and their gods shrank right along with the gaps, leading to progress.
The most religious countries are often the ones who have the poorest populations and the biggest gaps. Struggling populations want to believe that there is a God, that He is on their side, and that He hears and answers their prayers. This chart, however, seems to show that God has abandoned religious countries, and that, contrary to the right-wing bumper stickers, the countries that are moving forward in today’s world are, in fact, the countries who are quickly shedding their belief in an almighty God and taking responsibility for their own lives, and pursuing Science over Superstition. God bless them.
The electric bike I ordered a few weeks ago, arrived today, and I spent quite a few hours doing the “15-minute assembly”. The instruction manual came in an assortment of languages and two of them actually resembled English, but neither of them were any more helpful to me than if they had remained in the original Chinese.
Remove Item #1 from package.
Install it. Use tool provided.
Repeat with next item, until done.
It made an Ikea manual look like, by comparison, it should be in line for a Nobel Prize in literature. So, after struggling for quite a very long while, and even trying to use a powerful magnifier to just try and figure something out from studying a close-up of the fully-assembled bike on the cover, I finally ran to my computer for help.
I watched a few YouTube videos. Why didn’t I do that in the first place? Am I getting senile? The YouTube videos were way more helpful that the manufacturer’s instruction manual. A thousand times more helpful. Now, I knew why the front wheel of the bike didn’t turn the same direction as the handlebars when they turned. That’s what the Allan wrenches were for. Now I understood.
The toolkit that came with the bike looked like something the AAA Club tow-truck driver might always have with him. It had multiple different kinds of wrenches in multiple different sizes and a screwdriver that never seemed like the right tool for anything, but the instructions were often not very explicit about which tool to use with the part being installed. They just read, “use tool provided.”
So, now, thanks to YouTube, my e-bike is almost-fully-assembled, and the battery is charging as I write this. The only reason that the bike isn’t completely assembled is because the back fender kept getting knocked around every time I tried to lift my leg high enough to actually get on the bike. The whole reason I got the bike in the first place is because my arthritic hip has been giving me mobility problems. For some reason, I failed to realize ahead of time that my hip might actually prevent me from getting on the bike in the first place. I’m not sure if that was another Senior Moment or just blind optimism.
Anyhow, I just decided to remove it – the back fender that is, not my hip. I’m not going to be riding an electric bike on rainy days anyway. I may live in Pennsylvania now, but I’m no Ben Franklin looking to prove that lightning is related to electricity. However, even without the back fender getting in the way, it still wasn’t easy for me to lift my leg over the seat, but if I tilted the bike enough, I could manage it. I’m hoping that a with a little exercise and practice, it will loosen the hip joint enough that getting on and off the bike will become much easier. I’m just hoping that getting off doesn’t become too easy (If you know what I mean, wink, wink). I’ll wear a helmet just in case. I saw the Joe Biden video.
Funny thing. When all was said and done and the bike was fully assembled, I found that I still had a couple pieces left over. Those Chinese are so wasteful.
Many of us are under the illusion that the majority rules in this country. You would think that would be the way a Democracy works, but the United States is not a Democracy. It is a Republic, and when we Pledge Allegiance to the flag, we pledge our allegiance “to the Republic for which it stands.”
A Democracy works when you have just a few people. When you have 330 million people, it is just not practical for everyone to vote on every single decision. This is why we elect representatives to make the decisions. We have to do our regular jobs, drive trucks, wait tables, build houses, etc. We don’t have time to study each and every decision the government makes and come up with perfect solutions. Our representatives do have the time to study the issues and make reasonable decisions. Even so, they don’t always make the right decisions. Party politics can sway the way our representatives vote, just as party politics can immensely affect who the representatives are, who we vote into office.
The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, knew that our representatives would not always make wise decisions. They incorporated a system of checks and balances into our government. If you ever took a Civics class, you were taught that there are 3 branches of the U.S. Government that can check and balance each other. Like many other things you might have learned in school, this just isn’t so. There are actually 4 branches of the government required to check and balance each other. They are the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, the Judicial Branch, and the most important branch of the government, We, the People.
You hear statistics all the time, like 70% of Americans want gun control, or 70% of Americans want abortion to be legal. These are huge majorities, but majorities don’t rule. The Legislative Branch of the Government, bowing to the gun lobby, refuses to make the changes needed in our gun laws. The Judicial Branch, bowing to the Conservative ideas of an ancient past, refuse to allow women to make their own decisions about their bodies.
To counter the poor response of the government to the will of the people, We, the People, have to become actively and intelligently involved in the business of selecting the people who will best represent us in the government.
The problem is that We, the People, are too busy fighting each other to tackle this problem. We are divided, and everyone knows the old quote, “A house divided cannot stand.”
Also, in our system of Checks and Balances, a simple majority does not work. To override a Presidential veto, the Senate and House must have a two-thirds majority. To pass a proposed Amendment to the Constitution also requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate. That’s not easy, but it is even tougher for We, the People. A proposed Amendment to the Constitution needs to be ratified by three-fourths of the States. (That means, 38 of the 50 states).
If we want to amend the Constitution to make it bend to the will of the people, a simple majority is not enough. We need a three-fourths majority. We need to be united. The United States requires a united population. Otherwise, we are at the mercy of the political parties who control the other 3 branches of government.
We have to learn to compromise with one another, so that we can move forward instead of going backwards. We need a super majority agreement on the items we find important to override the vetoes we’re getting from Congress and the Supreme Court. We have to go beyond party loyalty, because the political parties do not want us united. They want us to fight with one another so that they continue to hold the power. We have to learn to get along if we want that power to go back to the people. United we stand. Divided we fall.
We are part of the system of Checks and Balances, and one simple thing we can do is that we can simply defund the politicians. We can refuse to write checks to politicians who are not responsive to our needs. We can vote them out of office, and we can elect people, who are responsive to our needs. However, to do this, to beat the powerful lobbies that have hijacked our government, we will all need to work together, and we will all need to work smarter.
Working together is something that Americans can usually only do when it is extremely urgent and important. But, in case you haven’t noticed the school shootings and the Capital protests coming from both sides, right now is one of those times. If we want to find solutions which we can all live with, it is urgent and important that we look for the things we like about one another, instead of the things we hate. If our country is to succeed, We, the People need to get to work and hammer out some solutions to our many problems.
Every couple years, the town inspector in charge of rented buildings comes around to make sure the building doesn’t have any health or safety issues. The inspector tests the smoke alarms, makes sure that there is easy access to fire exits, and looks to see that the apartment isn’t a health hazard.
I’ve been here 8 years, so I’ve been through a few of these routine inspections. They usually are over in 5-10 minutes. This was no exception. The results were strange, though. After the inspection, the tenant upstairs and myself both got text messages from the landlord, that we were going to be evicted.
He then put eviction notices that he had typed up himself in our mailboxes. I asked to speak with him. He told me that the inspector said that unless he got rid of the tenants, he was going to condemn the building. We had 30 days to vacate the premises. What was that supposed to mean? Is the building being condemned for something specific, or for just having tenants? To me, that’s like saying, “This racetrack would smell much better if they got rid of the horses.”
Was there any real health or safety hazard, that we should know about? The landlord didn’t know, or, at least, he wasn’t telling. He said he just acted on the advice of the inspector, that he hadn’t seen any written report.
I smelled a rat. Not literally, as that would be a health violation. The rat I smelled was my landlord. I didn’t trust my landlord. So, I told him I was getting a lawyer and fighting it.
Since then, I decided to move out anyway. I’ll still fight the eviction, but just to give me more time to pack and move whatever I decide to pack and move. So that’s what I’m deciding now. Where do I draw the line? What stuff do I take with me? What gets left behind?
The Legendary guitarist Chuck Berry was known to travel to a show with just his guitar and a toothbrush. I have both of those items. I could just do a Chuck Berry and walk away with just my electric guitar and a toothbrush. But I can’t. I’d have to take my e-saxophone, too. At least I know how to play that instrument.
In the movie, The Jerk, with Steve Martin, there is a scene where he says that he is leaving and he’s not taking anything with him, “except for this ashtray,” and he begins to grab more and more of the contents of the room as he is sadly leaving.
Brother X hasn’t really weighed in on the issue, but I’m pretty sure that he’s rooting for the landlord to evict me. I know that his biggest fear in life is that I will die before him, and that he will have to be the one to go through all my stuff, and I have a lot of stuff. He says that he will rent a dumpster and put a chute in my window and just dump all my stuff down the chute without even looking at it, and I believe him.
That’s no way to treat a legend.
So, I better pack what I want to keep carefully, and choose wisely.
The key to the problem is first to know where you are going.
Back in the 1980’s, I used to teach a computer class at the Albert Merrill School in Manhattan. I taught the first two weeks of school. Basically, it was an orientation and a preview class for people thinking about taking a computer course. If they decided to drop out in the first two weeks, their money would be completely refunded. I had the highest retention rate, so I taught the first two weeks and reeled in all the fish, that the other teachers would teach.
I would go to soup kitchens and food pantries and pick up stuff to serve as refreshments. On the first day of school, I would always write a quotation from the Ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu that read, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
What do I want to take with me to begin my next journey? What’s my first step?
In addition to the musical instrument, I have a few computers, that I’d want to take wherever I go. Throw in my DVD player/boom box, books, and some clothes. I know I would have to get rid of a lot of my outdated clothes. I have a few hundred t-shirts. Can I get that number down to just my 20 favorite t-shirts? Maybe.
What about Knick-Knacks? I don’t think I need to pack the wooden duck decoys I take to the ballpark when the Stormers are playing the Long Island Ducks. But there are memories attached to all the knick knacks I have. Solution: Capture the memories with a picture and kick them to the curb.
Well, not really kick. More like gently nudge to the curb. I’m thinking of putting a table in front of the building and having a free yard sale. Maybe I can also have people sign a petition. Maybe it could be a petition to Mayor Sorace for better treatment of 73-year old Navy veterans who are being evicted by heartless landlords. I could put up signs. Street theatre. That could be fun. Sign the petition get a free knick knack (or t-shirt).
I think I’ve got a handle on the Zen way to move. Try to give everything away so you don’t have to move it. Giving stuff away is so much better than just throwing it in a landfill.
Lao Tzu also said, “Beautiful new beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”
I should have put that quote on the blackboard at Albert Merrill on the last day of the 2–week introduction course.
I’ve got all the motivation I need to whittle my pile of stuff down to a manageable level, but I am also reminded that the ancient recipe for Rabbit Stew advises, “First. Catch a Rabbit.”
I need to “catch a rabbit.” I need a place to move to. Something inexpensive, with few stairs. So far, I got one offer. Crazy Debbie, my first girlfriend in Lancaster, and most likely the reason why I stopped dating completely, came by to make me an offer. She has a two-family house with her Mother, but her mother was admitted to a nursing home over a year ago and will not be coming home. I could have her Mom’s apartment, which is the top half of a house built on a hill, so that the 2nd floor apartment entrance is actually on street level.
I went to look at it today. It was spacious with lots of closets. Norman Bates would have loved the closets full of old lady clothes. There were religious objects all over the place, including two huge angels, which must have been made to be lawn ornaments in the cemetery. Perfect, for an atheist like me.
There were 3 bedrooms, but Debbie said that she’ll retain one of those rooms for storage of her mother’s belongings. I hope that includes the two angels. Even losing that room, there were still more bedrooms than I needed but a guest room would be nice for when I have out of town guests. There was also a living room and an office. The bathroom had a shower and a bathtub. I could finally soak my hip in an Epson salt bath.
The house has a huge backyard where I could relocate the Butterfly Ballroom.
If I was making up a list of Pro’s and Con’s, there were a lot of positives. On the negative side, it’s 10-miles out of town. The bus to town only runs every two hours, and the landlady (Debbie) is certifiably insane. So, there would be a lot to consider, if I was trying to narrow down my choices. Truth is, though, there were only two choices, either move into Debbie’s place or go back to where my Lancaster adventure began, a monthly residency at the Knights Inn on Route 30. So, I said yes to Debbie’s offer.
I don’t know if this is going to be the beautiful new beginning or the painful ending that Lao Tsu wrote about, but it’s certainly going to be an exciting adventure.