Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice Birds

Happy Winter Solstice ... the day the sun is lowest on the horizon in the northern hemisphere. Now the days will begin to lengthen once again as the sun appears higher in the sky each day.

I always wondered why birds would want to go to the arctic in the springtime. It is because the days are very long there in the summer ... the sun never sets at the height of summer. So the birds can forage for food for their new hatchlings 24 hours a day.

But in the arctic winter the sun never rises, so many birds come further south to seek food and warmth. That is why some birds can only be seen where I live in Idaho on a winter day. Yesterday I finally saw one such bird for the first time in my life.

Black Rosy-Finch

In the evening the Black Rosy-Finch seeks warmth and shelter in Cliff Swallow nests, or a cave or old mine shaft. The light was fading when they showed up to roost, but I managed to get a few photos and watched them through binoculars. I initially identified this as a Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, but there are three species of Rosy-Finches, and upon further study, I now believe this is the Black, not Gray-crowned, Rosy-Finch. I'll have to go back to see and photograph the browner Gray-crowned sometime soon!

I also saw a Prairie Falcon while out looking for Snow Buntings. I've never seen a Snow Bunting and they have been seen nearby. I didn't see any.

If you enjoy birds and the natural world, I think you should watch "The Life of Birds" hosted by David Attenborough and produced by the BBC. The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, and all of the David Attenborough shows depict nature in all of its majesty and intricate diversity.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I enjoy watching movies of all kinds. Documentary. History. Science Fiction.

I found a website where you can rate the movies you have seen and then it matches your ratings to the other people who have assigned similar ratings to the same movies, and shows you the other movies those people liked. The idea is that the same interests and tastes will lead to recommendations of other movies you might like.

Here's the website address, in case that is something of interest to you.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Other Shoe

I read in the news recently that President Bush went to Iraq and while giving a press conference a journalist threw shoes at Bush, a form of mideastern insult.

I put forth the proposition that Iraq finally "gets it" and has realized the American dream of freedom of speech. The guy didn't agree with Bush's views or policies, and instead of killing innocent people ... instead of killing anyone ... he chose to express his opinion. Nobody was hurt in the incident, with the possible exception of the shoe-thrower, who by some reports was somewhat bloodied by the security detail.

Wouldn't it be nice if the heads of state of the US and Iraq jointly pardoned this individual, and made a point of mentioning freedom of speech?

We Americans already take off our shoes at the airport. Maybe in Iraq they will take them off at press conferences.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hoxsey: When Healing Becomes a Crime

I'll just begin by quoting from the back jacket of the DVD I watched last night, "In 1924, Harry Hoxsey claimed a cure for cancer, herbal formulas inherited from his great-grandfather. Thousands of patients swore the treatment cured them, but the medical authorities branded Hoxsey the worst quack of the century. So began a medical war continuing to this day."

It all started when the great-grandfather's horse was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Hoxsey's great-grandfather put the horse out to pasture to die. He observed the horse eating plants not normally eaten, and when the horse's cancer disappeared, he studied the plants and their history. Native Americans and early botanists had spoken and written that some of these cured disease and cancer, thus the formula was derived.

I remember reading how chimps eat medicinal plants when ill, in Carl Sagan's book I previously reviewed in this blog. I can imagine a horse doing the same.

The documentary will go back in medical history to the time when some doctors wanted to cure the symptoms using surgery, while others wanted to heal the patient with love, hope and herbal medicines. The former's patients often died from the "cure", the latter from the "aliment". To this day, many people are frustrated by the dominant medical practices, some of which prove lethal themselves, and often lack in the kindness and compassion that makes up a quality life.

To hear Hoxsey tell it, the American Medical Association waged war on him (and the documentary tells of gunshots, court cases, numerous arrests, and the shuttering of clinics in 17 states). Hoxsey claims that after studying his formula and patient records, the AMA offered to buy his formula. Hoxsey insisted that part of the purchase contract include a provision that the treatments be available to those in need without regard for ability to pay, which the AMA refused to accept. They then branded his treatment "quackery."

Twice, juries found Hoxsey not guilty of quackery, and found that his treatment did indeed cure cancer. Today, one of the three components in his herbal formulas, a burning red salve that eats flesh is considered by the medical community to cure cancer ... just as excision or destruction by radiation would cure cancer (though the radiation treatments can actually induce new cancer at the same time it destroys the old one).

During the battles, not only was Hoxsey found innocent, he also won a libel case against the AMA Journal editor. The AMA Journal makes big bucks advertising "accepted" medicines. During the trial it was disclosed that the Journal editor had failed anatomy in school and had never seen a patient in his life. He resigned in disgrace.

There is a more in-depth book by the same name, by the filmmaker. As one botanist pointed out, "If some weeds in the back yard could cure cancer, the business of medicine wouldn't want you to know that." After all, there are more people employed in the anti-cancer profession than people with cancer. Medicine is big business, and big business does not always have a heart or soul.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Night Sky

Tonight was one of those times that the night sky presents a unique and beautiful view. The crescent moon appeared very close to the planets Jupiter and Venus at sunset. The unlit side of the moon could be clearly seen against the backdrop of the deep blue heavens. A few wisps of clouds hinted at the colorful sunset that was still fading from view as the gloaming encroached.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


In an earlier post I shared what I had learned of chimpanzee behaviour because understanding other creatures can help us understand ourselves. There is another species, very closely related to chimps. In fact, until perhaps 30 years ago the Bonobo were just believed to be smaller chimps, as they look very similar. But, as scientists studied their behaviour and published the results they were met with disbelief.

When two Bonobo tribes meet the males would all line up opposite the visiting tribe's males and thrash branches in a display of power. Meanwhile the females would get together for a meal. When the males grew tired of thrashing, they would quit and socialize peacefully. Chimps, you may recall, organize raids and kill members of opposing tribes. Chimp society is dominated by the males and female chimps are often brutalized by the males. Chimps are known to practice infanticide. The dominant chimp males are determined that only they sire offspring.

Bonobo society is matriarchal. The females determine the distribution of food and males stick close to their mother as the male's status is determined by the mother's status in the tribe. There is no infanticide and promiscuity is the norm. Paternity could not be easily determined as Bonobo sex is as common as a human handshake, perhaps more so. It reminds me of the 1960s mantra, "Make love, not war."

The Bonobo have a gene that fosters reconciliation which is absent in chimps. Chimps hold a grudge against an individual for a very, very long time. Bonobos just let bygones be bygones.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Audubon birding outing

On Saturday I went on a Golden Eagle Audubon Society birding field trip to C.J. Strike Reservoir near Mountain Home, Idaho. I always learn something new when I travel with these experienced birders. And, I saw a bird that was new to me, the White-winged Scoter.

I also got a nice photo of a beautiful gull, the Bonaparte's Gull. Gull identification can be difficult because to the untrained eye the differences can be subtle, and gulls don't just switch from juvenile to adult plumage, or winter to breeding plumage ... they change some of their feathers, in a cycle that is more complex than many other bird species. And, they interbreed, so it may be half one species and half of another.

Maybe that's why I think the Bonaparte's Gull is beautiful. Its graceful black and white detailing is very distinctive.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Maine to Wisconsin

Somehow in the 1980s I got it in my mind that I would like to bicycle across the country. My bicycle was, after all, a Schwinn “continental” so maybe it was the name that started this idea in my head. I saved up a little money, and paid for a bus ticket back to my parents’ home in Maine, with my bike in a box. After a few test rides and the symbolic visit to the Atlantic Ocean I loaded the bike with camping gear, photo equipment, food and water and set off westward.

On the evening of the first day I came to a steep hill, and going up it I went slower, and slower, and slower, and then fell over. Not even my ego was bruised, as there was nobody around to see this ignominious beginning of my adventure. Perhaps I didn’t need to have quite so much water, and quite so much food … and as I traveled the load lightened and my legs got stronger.

I crossed Lake Champlain on a ferry, going from the Green Mountains of Vermont to the Adirondacks in New York. In case you wondered, I didn’t have the route all mapped out. I carried USGS topographic maps of each state that I might encounter, and decided on a daily basis where I would go the next day. In upstate New York, as I rolled through hardwood forests, suddenly a creature darted out to rush my feet. Dogs are a worry, since they can be territorial, but this was smaller it seemed, as I veered away from the edge of the road. Looking back I saw a grouse, all puffed up and haughty.

I ate lunch by Saranac Lake and some fellow there chatted with me while I ate. He had a dog that looked like a German Shepherd to me, but he said it was half wolf. I reflected upon the fact that I had been more frightened by the grouse, than by this wolf.

There was the matter of some big lakes, the Great Lakes, between me and my destination, and I decided to take the upper route. I crossed into Canada and went north of the Great Lakes. In some places it was swampy, and the mosquitoes were quite aggressive. My daily hours of pedaling increased, because when I stopped I had to put on rain gear to set up the tent, even on a hot day, just to keep from being attacked by hordes of ravenous insects.

People would often ask, “How far are you going?” and my set answer became, “…all the way.” They would also ask what cause I was doing this for. I guess many people bike great distances “for world peace” or “for a cancer cure.” I had not thought it through, so we’re still plagued with war and cancer. Maybe next time … .

I crossed the border at the bridge in Sault Ste. Marie. The Canadian customs agent asked me, “Got any drugs?” I wondered if he was having a bad day, and needed a pick-me-up. I smiled and replied that I did not. Before I started this journey I was told by a fellow cyclist who had made this trek before me that there would be great ups and great downs. He also proclaimed that food was a drug. How true both statements proved to be.

My mood could be changed by the food I ate, or didn’t eat. My ability to pedal was limited not by my muscles, but by the speed at which food could be processed by my digestive system, or so it seemed. Raw eggs didn’t seem very appealing before the ride, or since. But while I was on this trek some raw eggs with milk and sugar were what I often craved. I thought my slim frame might put on a little muscle with this exercise, but I got leaner and felt and looked like a jackrabbit.

A friend’s home in Wisconsin was my midpoint destination, and I began to tell myself that if I could just make it that far, maybe a bus ride back to Idaho would be just fine. Don’t think of it as failure; consider it a trip from Maine to Wisconsin, no small feat.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Peanut Jar

I've heard tell of a way to catch monkeys. Put out a heavy clay pot, with some peanuts in it, and an opening just big enough for the monkey to reach into the jar. The monkey sees the peanuts, reaches in and grabs a handful. The monkey-catcher leaps out and the monkey, unwilling to drop the peanuts from its fist, cannot extract itself from the heavy clay pot and is easily netted.

Every day the news is filled with dire news about the sub prime mortgage meltdown. I say the news should be about the greedy monkey with a fistful of interest income. It seemed simple to me to refinance these loans, thus keeping people in their homes and assuring the banks a profit, and saving the global economy in the process.

But the greedy monkeys won't drop the peanuts. Wall Street says they sliced the mortgages into tranches and traded them as derivatives, and if we refinance the loans, then profits will be lost. Seems to me like profits are being lost right now, wouldn't you say?

Government is trying everything. Throwing money to the crowds like Nero did. Hey, that's always a crowd-pleaser. Going into the mortgage business themselves and bailing out Fannie and Freddie. Buying stock. Reducing interest rates. But what about addressing the root of the problem, the fact that people can't make the payments on their loans?

I want to say that I do not blame those who got into the loans. Divorces happen. Spouses die. Companies go out of business and jobs are lost. Retirement funds are looted by crooks. I remember when I moved to this house, and how a mortgage broker took me into a room with some guy with a calculator and pocket protector and browbeat me for an hour (they would call it a "sales pitch") about the wonders of a reverse-amortization, variable-rate loan. Their way, after a few years I would owe more than I had paid for the house, and the rates would be ... well, whatever. What do I have now? I walked out, went on the internet, and got a conventional, fixed-rate loan. I paid additional principal, and after 4 years refinanced the 30-year loan as a 15-year loan at 5%. So, who was better at this? The professionals who were going to extract a fee for their genius, or me? It helps to understand math and the internet. Not everybody does.

My first house, a little $65,000 home, would have cost a quarter million dollars by the time I had it paid off. Think of the interest! Anybody reading this ... if I give you $100, will you give me back $400? At what point does this become usury?

By now you're wondering where I'm going with all of this. People were taken advantage of, or got in over their heads, and are at risk of losing their homes, and that has in turn put all of us at risk. But because some high-rollers won't open their fist and unclench the tranches and derivatives we're all stuck attached to a heavy clay pot. Here's my solution. The government passes a law to crack that pot open, one mortgage at a time. Somebody says, "I want to refinance, help me out." The government follows the paper trail, one mortgage at a time, and whenever they come to some monkey with a stuck fist they offer two choices. Unclench your fist, and drop this mortgage (sign here) ... or we can go into another room and discuss the penalty for usury. Usury has a long tradition as unchristian, and maybe we should consider updating our laws to better define what is to be tolerated in our society.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

book review

Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan are the authors of this bestseller, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: A Search for Who We Are. I see it rates 4.5 out of 5 by reviewers on Amazon.com, where you can pick up a used copy for something like 30 cents.

I found two specific portions of this book most interesting. The first, starting around chapter 5, details the code sequence of DNA. It is made up of only 4 unique molecules, called C, A, G, and T (the first letter of the scientific names: cytosine, adenine, guanine, and thymine). If you think that only four "letters" or "molecules" could hold enough information to create the richness of human life, consider that computers only use two. The pictures on this blog, the movies you watch, the calculations computers do all relate back to only Y or N ... yes, or no ... on, or off ... 1 or 0 is how it is usually described. The music of Bach on an audio CD is the same, only 2 letters.

So, the DNA is made up of a string of these molecules, and we represent them by a sequence of letters: CAGGTTACCTATGACCTAG ... and in humans they go on for about five feet (much of it never used, for what it is worth ... good thing, too, since maybe the unused portion says to grow gills or scales or something). Not 5 feet of letters on a page or screen. Five feet of molecules, all attached, in a few long, fragile strings called chromosomes. Usually they're tangled up like a ball of yarn, and part of how they work is by untangling a little bit of the string that has the gene sequence that needs to complete some task, like creating a digestive enzyme or something. This sequence, and this was news to me, makes up 64 unique 3-letter words. Like CAG or GTT or ACC using the first few from the imaginary sequence I used.

That makes me feel better. I'm a very complex machine, and the idea that everything I am, and do, and think, and feel are controlled by 4 basic information units was a bit unnerving. Now 64 discreet states, that's more like it. As an aside, a new electronic component now joins the resistor, capacitor, and inductor. It is capable of memory of a previous voltage level after the power is removed, and is called a memristor. It can remember more than "on or off" and will revolutionize computing. You laugh now, but wait until some uppity 128-state processor disses our biological weakness.

Scientists have now documented the human genome, the sequence of DNA molecules that make us who we are. Of course, much is similar between you and I. There are differences, too. My eyes are hazel. Maybe yours are blue. Our genetic code is different.

But what is amazing it how much of it is similar! Not between you and I, but between me and a chimpanzee. The most similar genetic code to human DNA is that of chimpanzees. The book notes, "When ACGT sequences that are mainly active genes are examined, a 99.6% identity is found between human and chimp." Did I mention that a lot of the strands of DNA contain unused information? "In the kangaroo rat of the American Southwest, for example, the sequence AAG is repeated 2.4 billion times, one after the other ... ."

Perhaps one day radiation will cause a random mutation and this kangaroo rat tabula rasa seems an obvious place for nature to experiment.

It is worth noting that the common factor in life, as we know it, is DNA. Even unusual things like viruses have genetic codes, though theirs is more geared toward taking over an existing cell and putting it to work to make copies of the virus. Even those strange life-forms that live in the darkness of the deep ocean, clustered around a thermal vent, have genetic sequences.

The second portion of the book that I found most interesting was one on which the authors spent a lot of time and wrote many chapters. Chimpanzee behaviour and communication. One thing that surprised me is that chimpanzees can communicate about a plan for a future action regarding a hidden object, and we humans still have no idea how they do it. Chimps use deception, make and use tools, and practice warfare. Sounds like the history of civilization to me! This is a fascinating book, and it gives insight about what it means to be human. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Earth goes 'round the sun

I just learned that one in five Americans believe the sun goes around the Earth. I know the odds are low that somebody reading this blog is among those 60 million people, but just in case, I'd like to be the one to share the breaking news.

The Earth goes around the sun.

In 1543, when Copernicus published his argument that the planets went around the sun, just as moons go around planets, he built on a hypotheses offered by Greek, Muslim and Indian thinkers. At the time, most people believed the Earth was fixed in the universe and everything went around it (and around us). This idea works well for the casual observer, but people looked at the location of planets in the night sky and wondered about the things they observed.

Galileo used a telescope to observe the heavens, and by today's standards it was little better than binoculars. There is a reason why we can speak of him by first name afer the passage of nearly four centuries. He shared with the world, at what turned out to be great personal peril to himself, the wondrous things he observed. Times were tough back then, one could be burned alive at the stake for simply speaking or writing about what one saw. It is much better today, at least here in the United States, because we mostly subscribe to something called "Freedom of Speech."

What did Galileo see? Well, he observed that Jupiter had four large moons, and by making careful observations and writing them down, he was able to get to know each one better and give them unique names. His observations clearly indicated that they went round and round the planet in a regular, predictable way. You can use a pair of binoculars and see that for yourself, and if you are really motivated, or curious, or bored ... you can write down what you see every night and see if you believe Galileo or not.

He saw the rings of Saturn. They are quite beautiful and unlike the appearance of Earth, so this made those who heard about it edgy. The Earth was supposed to be unique, and special, and if other planets had rings, and ours didn't, well, why were we left out? We were supposed to be very special. I think that if they had the photos we have today, of the Earth from space, this would not have been such an issue. Our beautiful blue and white marble with its thin, fragile atmosphere and snowy white polar caps, dusty deserts, and vast green forests truly rivals the beauty of anything in our universe.

Or I can just point to that humorous adage, "You are unique and special. Just like everyone else."

Galileo studied the moon. He watched carefully as the moon waxed and waned. A bit after the new moon, about a week to ten days after, he noticed that it seemed as if there were mountain ranges, lit on one side, and in shadow on the other. He saw shadows change, and the depths of craters went from shadow to light over time. It really looked as if something were illuminating a varied terrain of craters, plains and mountains. And, it seemed to Galileo that the illumination was coming from some hidden source. This was heresy. And I mean that in a "burn you at the stake" kind of way.

Popular wisdom held that the moon was a smooth globe that glowed softly in the night sky. I can put myself in that frame of mind. It certainly does seem to be a glowing orb.

Now Galileo got a letter from another observer with a telescope, and it shared a new observation. There were those who said Venus displayed phases, just like the moon. Light on one side, dark on another, slowly varying the appearance, sometimes more light, sometimes more dark. Again, as if it was lit from one direction by a single source of light.

To explain the single source of light, and calculate its position, observations could be made. One could write them down on paper and speculate about what would explain the observations. This was a daunting task, and many people worked on it. I'll leave it to your curiosity to find out more about math, geometry, and physics.

As for me, I have to see things for myself sometimes. I got a little telescope, mostly for looking at birds, but at night the heavens beckon. There's Saturn with rings, Jupiter with four large moons, Mercury close to the horizon, and sure enough, Venus with phases.

I'm convinced. The Earth goes around the sun.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


It is a shame that I have to resort to self-interest to persuade, because I believe that every species has an intrinsic right to existence. Perhaps a butterfly is simply beautiful to behold, in addition to possessing the wonder of metamorphosis.

We push more and more species to extinction at an ever increasing rate, surpassing the extinctions that marked the end of the dinosaurs. Frogs, corals, large mammals ... the list goes on and on. Sometimes they're gone before they ever get put on a list, before they're known.

Usually when a species stands at the brink some large economic entity looms over it, ready to crush the last of its ancient knowledge, and then I hear people exclaim, "It's just a snail. It's only a fish, we can get those in the store. It's a beetle, fer chrissakes."

It's only a fungus. Sort of like a mush-room. It was just found to be able to create hydrocarbons from cellulose. (The photo is not the kind that makes fuel ... it is just a photo I took that shows an unusual fungi, not your typical stem and cap mushroom.) Right now, to get automobile fuel from corn, the corn has to be converted to sugars first, then to alcohol ... and the ethanol goes into the gas tank of our cars. Perhaps someone who is hungry would rather have eaten the corn than seen it go into my automobile fuel tank.

Cellulose is the part of the plant often thought of as the waste product ... the corn stalks ... the sawdust from the sawmill. But a fungus was just found to be able to convert cellulose into hydrocarbons. It is making scholars reconsider how the oil deposits were formed. And it is making me think that perhaps we could fuel our cars without causing others to starve.

I hope it makes you reconsider saving the life of the last of the many endangered species all over the planet ... not just the whales, the wolves, the tigers and the manatees. But also the moss, the beetles, the snails and the fungi. While not every one can cure your cancer or fuel your car, each one holds knowledge that only they know.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Comet Hyakutake, at its closest approach to Earth, inbound toward the sun, only 1/10 Astronomical Unit (9.3 million miles) from our home planet.

One of my interests is cosmology, the study of the origins of our Universe. Carl Sagan was the spokesperson for this study for a long time, but I would like to share a discovery of mine.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a leading astrophysicist, and the director of the American Museum of Natural History's
Hayden Planetarium. His fascinating presentation, Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, examines the origin of the Universe, the origin of our planet Earth, and the origins of life.

The Universe came into being about 14.7 billion years ago. Even today, we have much to explore and much to learn. Looking at some of the
images from the Hubble Space Telescope and robotic probes is one good way to learn about our Universe.

Everything on this Earth, ourselves included, is made up of a very limited number of elements. The early Universe was composed of mostly hydrogen and a little helium. Everything else, the oxygen, iron, calcium, and other elements in our bodies and on this round Earth were formed inside of stars and Supernovae.

But the elements made up of protons, neutrons and electrons are only a small portion of what makes up the Universe. All the "stuff" we know and can touch, and feel, and smell is called "baryonic matter". The other stuff, non-baryonic matter isn't something we fully understand yet, and it makes up 85% of the Universe. Go figure. Or just look up at the starry sky on a clear, cold, dark night and wonder.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I'm going to share a few bird photographs today. I enjoy birding very much. Birds are quite amazing creatures. They've been on this planet for longer than mammals, have a variety of lifestyles and behaviours, and can do fascinating things. Like flying. Like flying thousands of miles nonstop.

Some of the birding adventures I'd like to do sometime soon include visits to Everglades National Park, Big Bend National Park and the Madeira Canyon area near Arizona's Sonoran Desert.

Cassin's Vireo

Barn Owl

Northern Harrier

Canyon Wren

To see more of my bird photos, feel free to visit my Shutterfly album.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Cookie Jar

It has been a long-running debate. The Ayn Rand free-market "Get Government Off My Back"-ists would argue that capitalism is a self-policing and self-healing system. Alan Greenspan now says, "Well, maybe I made a mistake in that calculation." I once heard a small town mayor say that it wasn't necessary to require businesses that would serve customers to have any parking spaces ... the business owners will learn that if they don't provide a place for customers to park, nobody will come to buy. I replied that free-market capitalism would sell it's daughter on the street to make a quick profit. Businesses won't put in enough parking if there isn't some ordinance that specifies the rules. They'll all figure that customers will park next door, and then come over to their fancy storefront.

That said, I must say I'd favor fewer laws, not more. I'd like the Internal Revenue Code to be simpler, not more complex. I don't want freedoms to be diminished. Nobody does. But, in the crowded 21st Century we will be drawing some important lines, weighing carefully some opposing views, and coming to grips as a society with very complex and tough philosophical questions.

Slogans won't get us to a solution, though the value of marketing is great in a capitalist society. Make no mistake about it, we in America are a capitalist society. So, if we're not careful, and don't consider our reasons for our actions and beliefs, we'll likely just go with a slogan instead.

My thought for today is simply this ... we put the cookie jar on a high shelf for a reason.

If it's easy to dip into the cookie jar, if it puts temptation in our face at every hour of the day and night, it becomes very easy to do unhealthy and enjoyable things ... like eat too many cookies.

We see Wall Street doing that this year. The CEO's give each other raises. They appoint their friends to the Board of Directors for million dollar compensation packages and in return the Board of Directors give them, well, sometimes *Billions* of dollars. Billions, with a capital "B". Really, check out the guy from United Healthcare. $1.6 Billion in stock options.

It is time for the American people to put the cookie jar on a high shelf.

It won't be easy. Most of the lawmakers are in the coin pockets of Big Business. I saw a bumper sticker that proclaimed, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." For real change to occur in America, we will have to pay attention.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

In the Beginning ...

So here I was at the gym, on the elliptical, too impatient to watch commercials during the episode of Star Trek I was watching, probably due to my attention deficit disorder. So, I would channel surf and catch a few seconds of weather, or comedy, or election news. Today is a historic day. I'm sure of it. Tuesday, November 4, 2008. Election day. A day that will live in famy (the opposite of infamy).

They're doing the "exit polls" and most people are mostly concerned about the economy. Like 90% or so. Then there's the war in the Middle East, and some concern about terrorism. And I'm thinking about this, and having clever thoughts, or so I imagine, perhaps due to the free coffee from Starbucks, since I voted, and since Starbucks had a nice deal to give away coffee to everyone who voted. Thanks Starbucks.

When this blog gets famous, I'm gonna charge for plugs like that. But for now, this is my first post, and I got a cup of coffee already, so I kinda owe *them* if you know what I mean.

I think there are more blogs in the world than people, and I have never had a blog, so I'm thinking it's about time. And, there's the matter of all these thoughts. I have this urge to communicate, which mostly manifests itself as voices in my head. And they want to get out. Usually when I connect these thoughts to the mouth, somebody nearby wants to slap me, so I think I'll blog, and you can leave comments that slap.

There's lots I'd like to blog about. Nature, cosmology, psychology, beauty, humor, birds, photography, current events, politics. But I'll try to keep it short, because I have attention deficit disorder and it seems like when I begin to speak, others catch A.D.D. from me and wander off.

So, before you go, here's the thought for today. It's about the exit polls. Today most people are worried about the economy. I admit, it's hard to ignore the economy what with layoffs and foreclosures and big hypothetical bucks evaporating from retirement funds like a pile of chips in Las Vegas being scooped up with the big hook or rake or whatever.

But, I'm going to offer the hypothesis that it is short-sighted and stupid to select a leader based on fears over what is essentially a gambling addiction, playing the market ... the dot.com frenzy, or the housing bubble, or derivatives, or what-have-you. My hypothesis is that it would be long-sighted to select a leader based on issues of planetary health and the continuation of civilization. I'm always dismayed by breakdown in civil order, and I've seen it happen a few times during my lifetime. Unrest and mayhem followed after the assasination of Martin Luther King, Jr., after the Rodney King verdict, and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. At those times I was pushed back against a wall by events which suggested that just beneath the shiny Wall Street veneer of our society lies the missing link.

Let there be light.

November 4, 2008