Never tell me the odds!

January 27th, 2014 @ 6:38 am
The 1973 National Personnel Records Center Fire

Purple HeartA few weeks ago I did a little web searching on a mission to see if it would be possible to acquire duplicates of any or all of my grandfather’s service medals. He fought as a member of Merrill’s Marauders in the Pacific Theater in WWII and I know he had been awarded (at least) a Purple Heart and a Medal of Honor. Long, long ago, my great-grandmother — an evil, wicked woman — caught my uncle playing with the medals and threw them into a fireplace.

I learned that on July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, destroyed approximately 16–18 million Official Military Personnel Files.

It is estimated that the personnel files of 80% of all Army veterans discharged between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960 and 75% of all Air Force veterans discharged between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964 were lost.

“No duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained, nor were microfilm copies produced. Neither were any indexes created prior to the fire. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available.”

“In terms of loss to the cultural heritage of our nation, the 1973 NPRC Fire was an unparalleled disaster.”

January 25th, 2014 @ 2:34 pm
Happy Birthday, W. Somerset Maugham

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”

W. Somerset Maugham, January 25, 1874 – December 16, 1965

January 24th, 2014 @ 7:49 am
Friday Five: Teenage Wasteland

I did a bunch of odd jobs before I turned fifteen and was legally allowed to work in Florida. I had gigs mowing lawns, selling airbrushed license plates at the Daytona Beach Flea Market, selling ice cream during the races at Daytona International Speedway, going door-to-door selling Christmas wreaths for charity, &c. Once I turned fifteen, though, I was able to get a “real” job. Here are the five best “real” jobs I had before I turned twenty:

  1. dishwasher / prep cook · Carmichael’s Sports Pub
  2. Sandwich Engineer · Subway
  3. line cook · Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips
  4. counter man · TCBY
  5. pool cleaner / lotion sales · Hawaiian Tropic

So Money: An Oral History of Swingers

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Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.
Gustave Flaubert

January 21st, 2014 @ 7:15 am
Roger and Elaine

Let’s say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine.

He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else. And then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud:

“Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?”

And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Gee, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I’m trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of.

And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward . . . I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Roger is thinking: . . . so that means it was . . . let’s see…February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer’s, which means . . . lemme check the odometer…Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here!

And Elaine is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed, even before I sensed it-that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He’s afraid of being rejected.

And Roger is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t care what those morons say, it’s still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It’s 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those bastards

And Elaine is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.

And Roger is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a 90-day warranty. That’s exactly what they’re gonna say, the rats.

And Elaine is thinking: maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I’ll give them a warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it right up their ….

“Roger,” Elaine says aloud.

“What?” says Roger, startled.

“Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Maybe I should never have …I feel so …” (She breaks down, sobbing.)

“What?” says Roger.

“I’m such a fool,” Elaine sobs. “I mean, I know there’s no knight. I really know that. It’s silly. There’s no knight, and there’s no horse.”

“There’s no horse?” says Roger.

“You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Elaine says.

“No!” says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.

“It’s just that… It’s that I…I need some time,” Elaine says.

(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.) “Yes,” he says.

(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.) “Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?” she says.

“What way?” says Roger.

“That way about time,” says Elaine.

“Oh,” says Roger. “Yes.”

(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.) “Thank you, Roger,” she says.

“Thank you,” says Roger.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn.

Whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechs he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it’s better if he doesn’t think about it. (This is also Roger’s policy regarding world hunger.)

The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.

Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine’s, will pause just before serving, frown and say: “Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?”

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January 17th, 2014 @ 5:36 am
Prohibition!

ProhibitionIt’s the 94th birthday of Prohibition! The Eighteenth Amendment, the Volstead Act, took effect on this date in 1920, a year after it was ratified. Congress passed the Act even though President Woodrow Wilson had vetoed it. It made the manufacture, sale, and transportation of liquor illegal.

It took almost 14 years before the 21st Amendment reversed Prohibition. It’s the first and only time an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been repealed, and you can primarily thank a woman for it. Pauline Sabin was a wealthy Republican who led the repeal movement. She predicted making liquor legal again would create jobs, weaken organized crime, and generate tax revenue.

January 17th, 2014 @ 4:28 am
Friday Five: Places in Maui

Black RockMy five favorite places on Maui:

  1. Black Rock · Ka’anapali
  2. Longhi’s · Lahaina
  3. The Kahana Sunset · Kahana
  4. Kimo’s · Lahaina
  5. The Hula Grill · Ka’anapali

Mac Pro-tip: Pressing and + will make the font larger in just about every program you use. (And and - will decrease the font size.)

It’s a silly little tip that almost everyone knows. But if you don’t know it, it’s a godsend. (It’s a little depressing to admit that your eyes are getting older, but …)

Ernest Hemingway’s Favorite Hamburger Recipe

Why Federal Construction Spending Doesn’t Translate to GDP Growth

January 13th, 2014 @ 10:01 am
Live at Folsom Prison

Live at Folsom CountyOne of my favorite albums — Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison — was released on this date in 1968.

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”
Johnny Cash

The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted?

January 10th, 2014 @ 4:29 am
Friday Five: Disney Characters

GoofyMy five favorite Disney characters:

  1. Goofy
    Goofy will always be my favorite cartoon character of all time. When I was a very little boy, I had a stuffed Goofy that was my constant companion. I hugged him so long and so often that his nose fell off. My mom stitched him a new one from an old beige sock and he became known as “Sock-Nose Goofy”. I still have him.
  2. Mickey Mouse
  3. Donald Duck
  4. Jiminy Cricket
  5. Dumbo

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History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.
George Santayana

When “Life Hacking” Is Really White Privilege

Cancer-linked Flame Retardants Eased Out of Furniture in 2014

January 3rd, 2014 @ 7:18 am
Friday Five: Fave Floyd

The WallIt’s difficult to choose or rank your five favorite songs by an artist that you love so much, but here’s a shot. I have quite a collection of Pink Floyd albums in iTunes, but all five of these are from The Wall.
I can’t tell you how many times as a teenager I laid on my bed, wearing my bright yellow Sony Sports Walkman headphones, and blasting this album into my brain from start to finish.

  1. Young Lust
  2. One of My Turns
  3. Mother
  4. In the Flesh?
  5. The Thin Ice
January 2nd, 2014 @ 6:42 pm
Genetic Memories

Have you ever heard of planarian worms? These little guys exhibit the remarkable ability to regenerate (like starfish) if you chop them into little pieces.

That in itself is a pretty nifty trick, of course. But what really makes planarian worms seem like something out of science fiction is that — unlike starfish — they regenerate from both pieces. If a starfish loses an arm, it grows a new arm and the other one floats away and dies.

If you chop a planarian worm in half, both halves regenerate what they lost and you get two planarian worms.

And now here’s the part that should really freak you out: Both new worms appear to retain the memories of the original.

In the unlikely (and, of course, horrible) scenario that you had your head chopped off, you might hope that one day “science” would be able to give you a new body and you’d get to keep being you. But you’d probably never even considered the idea of your old body growing a new head and that being you, too.

Swamp ThingA report on NPR a few days ago broke news about how we’ve confirmed that planarian worms do just that. But I don’t understand why this is news now, because I swear I remember reading about (and being amazed by) this magic of planarian worms in a Swamp Thing comic book in the early 80s.

January 2nd, 2014 @ 7:17 am
Dealing with My iPhoto Library

iPhotoI have about 40,000 photos, which makes iPhoto impossible to use. I don’t mean, “It’s difficult for me to use.” I mean, “I can’t use it at all.” It crashes on me constantly; And on the rare occasions I am able to even open the application, its performance is too unbearably slow and unresponsive to actually use.

A few months ago I decided to spend $29.95 to purchase iPhoto Library Manager from Fat Cat Software, primarily because of the hundreds of references to it on the Apple iPhoto Support Forums. I used it to split my original iPhoto library into eleven smaller iPhoto libraries, each containing only a single year’s worth of photos, and one which contains the few hundred photos I have — mostly scanned ones — from before digital cameras because commonplace.

So far so good, I thought. But then …
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